When a Brooklyn mother suspected her autistic daughter was being verbally abused by the paraprofessional on her bus, she secretly placed a tape recorder in her daughter's book bag.
Veronica Droz, of Coney Island, said her 11-year-old daughter Tori has needed one-on-one assistance both at home and at school ever since she was diagnosed with autism at age three.
Droz, 42, says she is acutely aware of her child's special needs and her behavior, from the simplest mannerisms to the noises she makes to communicate.
So when Tori started lashing out and hitting her home caregiver, Droz knew something was wrong. She suspected the problem was at school.
"She smacked her home caregiver and then said, 'Shush,'" said Droz. "I said, 'Who did that to you?' She said, 'No [redacted name], no school."
To determine if Tori Droz's allegations against the bus paraprofessional were valid, Droz placed a tape recorder in her daughter's book bag. The recording, Droz said, shows the paraprofessional verbally abusing her daughter.
"On the tape, [the aide] refuses to put on her seatbelt," said Droz. "My daughter's practically begging to put her seatbelt on."
Not everything on the 40-minute recording can be made out, but snippets can be understood. Droz said her daughter screams "Woo woo" when she needs her seatbelt buckled. On the tape, Tori repeats the noise over and over again.
Then an adult's voice is heard saying, "Do it yourself, I'm not doing it for you."
Droz doesn't believe her daughter's seatbelt ever was buckled. There are instances on the recording where it seems like the adult voice mocks Tori's noises.
Her mother says that kind of treatment toward an autistic child is unacceptable.
"Yes, it can be very hard, but if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen," said Droz. "You need to have patience."
The aide was suspended for two days without pay and reassigned, according to the Department of Education. The abuse allegations could not be substantiated, however.
Droz said her daughter has been better but remains concerned about who is being hired for special needs positions.