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Bus driver accused of slapping 4-year-old

An East Valley School District bus driver is accused of slapping one of his 4-year-old passengers.

The bus driver, who was not identified, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday while the incident is investigated, said Ray Stookey, the district’s human resource director.

“It’s not okay,” said the boy’s mother Angela Banks. “It’s a horrible thing to happen to a kid.”

The boy, Jonas Porath, attends an Early Head Start program at Trent Elementary School. He rides the bus home with his 7-year-old sister, Alexis Porath. On Wednesday afternoon, Jonas was reportedly talking to friends and not sitting in his seat when the driver stopped the bus, walked up to Jonas, slapped him across the face and using a vulgar word, told the boy to sit down, Banks was told by several witnesses.

Alexis told her mother what happened when the children arrived home. Jonas followed holding his cheek; “it was still red, but he wasn’t crying,” Banks said.

“The bus driver smacked me,” Jonas told her.

The shaken mom contacted the school district and the Spokane Valley Police. But she’s not sure what to do at this point, she said, adding, “school is supposed be a safe place for kids.”

The district was shocked when they heard the allegation, Stookey said. The school board will have the ultimate decision on discipline against the driver.

The bus driver has been with the district for less than 10 years, Stookey said. The district has 39 drivers. Many of the buses are equipped with cameras, but there was not one on the bus Jonas was riding.

Banks said she has spoken with the district’s transportation director, who told her the driver has had two previous complaints. She was also told the investigation is expected to be completed by next week.

Meanwhile, Jonas is “saying he doesn’t even want to go to school now. I try to tell him it is okay, and he just hides his face in his coat.”

On Thursday, when Banks took her son to school, Jonas told his principal: “The bus is not safe.”