Councilmember Jeanette Burrage charged with slapping special needs student

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on April 18, 2015 when the following videos were added:

by Jack Mayne

Des Moines City Councilmember Jeanette Burrage has been charged with assaulting a special needs student riding on a Highline School District bus she was driving.

King County Sheriff’s detectives investigated the March incident and then recommended fourth degree assault charges be filed against Burrage, a one-time state legislator and King County Superior Court judge.

The Sheriff’s office said it jointly investigated the case with the school district after school district employees that viewed the bus surveillance video from the afternoon routes on March 10 reported it to SeaTac Police on March 18. Police and school security officers initially responded to a disturbance on the bus but deputies said at the time there was no indication that an assault occurred. Following the incident, the student was taken home by school district security, said a Sheriff’s department spokesman.

An internal review of the bus surveillance video by district officials showed the driver slapping the child, who was standing on a seat at the time, said deputies. District officials immediately contacted SeaTac Police, who turned the matter over to the Sheriff’s office Special Assault Unit given their special experience with juvenile interviews. That unit worked with SeaTac Police to conclude the case.

Burrage, 62, has been driving buses for Highline Transportation since 2012.

She was placed on administrative leave by the school district.

Burrage has filed for reelection to the Des Moines City Council.

Here’s another story by KING5:


19 Responses to “Councilmember Jeanette Burrage charged with slapping special needs student”
  1. Dunn says:

    Tell your cities elected officials how you feel about Jeanette Burrage, good or bad.

  2. RedondoRick says:

    We can blame society for not being able to discipline our children. We’ve lost all control over disciplining our children. There was a time we could put our hands on children to correct their attitude. When I was a child, spanking was normal for parents to control bad behavior. Now it’s child abuse. If Ms Burrage was correcting a behavior to protect the safety of the child, I see nothing wrong with that. We come to a decision quickly without facts and total understanding of the action taken by Ms Burrage. If this act was out of the normal range, Ms Burrage should face the consequences of such action…Rr

    • Dunn says:

      Society has changed, corporal punishment is a thing of the past RedondoRick. And as a former judge, a former state legislature, and soon to be former city council member/ bus driver Ms. Burrage should know that.

    • DesMoinesResident says:

      So your ok with someone other than yourself punishing or hitting your child? I’m not and if someone hit my child I would hurt them. There are plenty of other ways for a non-parent to discipline a child besides slapping them. If a parent chooses to spank that is their choice but it shouldn’t be decided for me or anyone else by a school bus driver, teacher, principal or any other authority figure in a child’s life.

  3. Elizabeth Brant says:

    Therr is NEVER a good reason to slap a child.
    There are more appropriate ways to discipline.

  4. Rob Anderson says:

    let the council know how you feel…

    It shouldn’t be allowed given her track record…

  5. John Smith says:

    Jeanette personally found out about what many Highline staff and students are already aware of. That is that they are expected simply to submit to assault from a child that has been labeled “behavior Disabled”. We are so far lucky this little punk didn’t attack her at 60 mph.

    • Carol Sheppard says:

      John Smith,
      Your comment is beyond despicable. This little boy is not a “little punk”. He is a six year old autistic boy. Autism is a bona-fide recognized disability. NOT an ambiguous label as you wish to imply, bay trying to use the term “behavior Disabled”.
      Your comment displays a level of ignorance that is truly pitiable. It is not my understanding that she was attacked out of the blue while driving. He was in an unfamiliar situation, since he normally does not ride on that type of bus which agitated him. Autistic individuals do not do this on purpose or out of defiance. Even a typically developing six year old would lack the impulse control to calm down if they were very upset and afraid, let alone one suffering from autism.
      The accounts state that she was attempting to stop the disruption that his agitated state was causing. It appears that it was her attempts to get him to comply that caused him to fully melt down and lash out which is typically a defensive move for autistic individuals. They cannot handle someone touching them because it is overstimulating to the point of being painful both physically and psychologically.

      Jeannette Burrage is the adult in the situation and an arm of the educational system. She is well-educated and responsible. She knows better. And so should you. But I can see that you are simply taking this opportunity to take pot-shots at the school district.

      Your comments are shameful.

  6. Fiat Lux says:

    This is an unfortunate situation, which needlessly put many people in harm’s way. From the autistic boy to the bus driver and other adult attendants (seen on the video) who were apparently unable to subdue the agitated child. We must also consider the possible danger posed to other students riding the bus who could have been injured somehow by the outburst of a special needs student on their bus who was apparently causing a substantial distraction such that the bus driver deemed it necessary to stop the bus and address the situation. Fortunately, Ms. Burrage did choose the safe option of stopping the bus rather than continue driving with a disruptive passenger causing such a distraction on board. Fortunately, the child’s outburst did not lead to any sort of traffic accident that may have resulted in greater injury.
    If we are to honestly and rationally assess this situation, more questions need to be asked, such as:
    Were proper student transportation procedures followed?
    At which points along the line did the Highline School District’s (HSD) system fail?
    How did these failures result in HSD’s inability to transport this special needs student in the safe and secure manner to which he was accustomed/that his parent approved of?
    Was the proper HSD protocol, with regard to making a change in the transportation of a special needs student, followed?
    Is it acceptable that HSD did not notify the mother of their intent to disrupt her son’s usual transportation method?
    Was Ms. Burrage notified that a special needs student was going to be on her bus that day?
    Were any steps taken to more comfortably accommodate that student (considering his special needs were known to HSD) on Ms. Burrage’s bus?
    Are all bus drivers (specifically, Ms. Burrage, in this case) trained in safe and effective methods for interacting with special needs students?
    Were appropriate accommodations made to preserve the safety of the autistic boy as well as that of the other, non-special needs students on the bus who might well have been injured somehow by a frightened autistic boy in an agitated state?
    Does the HSD believe that terminating Ms. Burrage will solve the greater problem of lack of resources and training to adequately and safely educate and transport special needs children?
    What must the HSD do to keep this sort of situation (something that could have been avoided at so many steps along the way) from happening again?
    All students, school bus drivers, teachers, and teacher’s aides deserve to be safe when they are involved in HSD activities.

  7. Wondering says:

    I am still wondering why a lawyer, former judge and city council member is driving a school bus?

    • Pat Nardo says:

      None of us know all of the facts in this case. When they are revealed, investigated and judged by qualified personnel, then, only then, should we be in judgment here. Knowing this council member as I do, I find it totally out of character that she would just reach out and slap a child. There mist have been some mitigating issue here and that too, will come out. Jeanette has a loving family of her own, and even a dog who dotes on her attention. Now, does this describe a person willing to assault a child?

      • Bernadette says:

        The video shows her slapping the child. You can even hear the slap. She is in the wrong for it. It shouldn’t have been her reaction. By the time it happened I’m sure she must of known this child was upset. I don’t know either way watching the video made me upset. I guess it made you upset for your friend Jeanette and me upset because my son is autistic and rides the bus everyday.

  8. Rob Ladue says:

    Very well said Fiat Lux. There are more people involved in this decision than the driver..

    • Carol Sheppard says:

      Ultimately, we are talking about one decision made in the heat of the moment. Ms. Burrage’s decision to strike an individual with special needs.

      It is simply indefensible.

  9. Pat Nardo says:

    Jeanette Burrage has been a personal friend for many years now, and we have come to know her as a level headed, cool composured individual who loves children and fights for their causes. Some of the writings, replies here seem to rush to judgment, which is blatantly unfair. I feel certain that there are extenuating circumstances that will be exposed, which will ultimately exonerate Jeanette Burrage. Just as it is true that an autistic child may “lash out”, so it is equally valid that if such child were to bite or otherwise attack an adult, the instinct to respond would be without control in the moment. I believe we should all sit back and let justice work it best way out of this, and I stand firmly behind Jeanette’s integrity here. I do hope, however, that there is some means of helping this little boy overcome this disability. I do wonder why he was on that bus to begin with and exposing other children to his potentially dangerous behavior?

    • Emily says:

      Jeanette stood in the way of progress. As many of the council members do.

    • Bernadette says:

      Really exposing other child to his potentially dangerous behavior. So what should we do with our autistic kids? Keep them home never expose the normal people to them? Don’t worry people like you make me stay home with my son so I don’t disrupt your normal life.

  10. Kitty says:

    How dare she slap that child. Did you hear the sound from that slap? My blood is boiling after watching that video. This is a child. An autistic one at that. No adult should EVER slap a child in the face like that. I hope the justice systems works on this one.

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