Public Safety

Family alleges Cedar Rapids school district destroyed evidence

District says it can't find recordings of incident in which bus driver accused of slapping 12-year-old

(Gazette file photo) Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, August 7, 2014.
(Gazette file photo) Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

A Cedar Rapids mother alleges the school district intentionally destroyed video from a school bus where she says her son was slapped by a district employee in March 2017.

Megan Barry has asked a federal judge to sanction the Cedar Rapids Community School District for not providing video and audio from two cameras operating on the school bus March 21, 2017.

The district replied in a resistance filed last week saying employees didn’t destroy the recordings, but they can’t find them.

“Denny Schreckengast, then CRCSD’s Transportation Manager, promptly requested and received from mechanic Matthew Steege bus 1607’s memory card,” the district reported to the court. “Schreckengast watched the memory card and did not see any recordings from March 21, 2017. Despite diligent searches, CRCSD had been unable to locate the March 21, 2017 bus recording.”

Barry sued the district, Taft Middle School principal and a bus driver in November, claiming the driver assaulted her then 12-year-old son, identified in the suit as A.P.

The bus driver, Cecelia Lane, was lowering the boy’s wheelchair for him to exit the bus, when he started “acting out” and spit on his mother, the lawsuit states. The boy turned his head toward Lane and motioned like he intended to spit on her too, when Lane’s hand connected with the boy’s face. District officials have said Lane accidentally hit the boy when she was trying to avoid the spit.

The boy, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, had brain surgery in 2016 that made him at greater risk of head trauma, the family claimed in the suit.

The lawsuit is set for trial April 8.

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Barry’s motion for sanctions asks the court to include an “adverse inference” instruction for jurors saying the district had failed to produce evidence. The district opposes this step, saying the video recordings — even if they were available — would only show the interior of the bus, not the ramp. The district hopes to find the recordings by an Aug. 22 discovery deadline, the resistance states.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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