OCSO arrests school bus aide on child abuse charge

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 12:53 PM CST
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FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WALA) - Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies arrested a school bus aide Tuesday after authorities say he used inappropriate force in dealing with a 6-year-old autistic student.

John-Paul Patrick Martinez, 22, of Fort Walton Beach, is charged with child abuse without great bodily harm.

The investigation started Nov. 2, 2022, after the child’s grandmother reported suspicious reddish/blue marks underneath the child’s armpit and eye following his bus ride home from Silver Sands School on Nov. 1, authorities said.

According to investigators, bus video shows the child, who was secured in a harness for his protection, began having a behavioral issue on the bus. Martinez then physically restrained him by forcefully grabbing his limbs, telling him to bite himself, and pulling on him while he was still secured in his harness, the OCSO said.

At the end of the incident, Martinez again forcefully grabbed the child’s legs as he had done numerous times before and asked the child if he was going to “knock it off.” When the child said yes, Martinez released him, according to the arrest warrant.

When the child was interviewed with the assistance of his teacher, he indicated the bus aide was mean to him, made him cry, and hurt his back, according to investigators.

The OCSO said Martinez admitted his actions were excessive and he had other options he could have taken.

According to a statement released by the Okaloosa County School District, the school district was notified of the incident when it occurred, and Martinez was placed on administrative leave pending further action. The statement also refers to Martinez as a “former school bus aide.”

“The behavior alleged in this incident is absolutely unacceptable and does not represent the high standards of conduct that our hard-working employees uphold each and every day,” stated Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “Student safety will always be my number one priority. In situations where we fail to meet the standards we’ve set, individuals will be held accountable. We greatly appreciate the Sheriff’s Office for their work in this situation and truly value the partnership we have with them.”

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