Steele County bus driver accused of assaulting student

A case in Steele County, Minnesota is pitting a ten-year-old and his mom against a school bus driver.

The student, Lajaed Robinson, says the driver injured him when putting him in his seat on the bus, but the driver says he didn't do anything wrong. 

“So he picks Lajaed up, they were still parked in the school parking lot,” said Laura Robinson, the boy’s mother. “He picks Lajaed up and throws him in the seat and he hit his head, like on the ceiling. He had a big knot on his head when he came home.”

This all allegedly happened in January. Robinson's son was nine years old at the time, a fourth grader at Medford Elementary.

“So he came home really upset crying, so I called the police, and they did an investigation,” said Laura Robinson. “They got the video tapes from the bus company and they filed charges on the bus driver.”

The driver, Philip Heim, was charged with fifth degree assault which is a misdemeanor. While there is video of the incident, it won't be released until the trial. The driver's attorney, Joe Tamburino, says that video will make the difference in the case.

“When you see that video, it is crystal clear,” said Tamburino. “That the bump on the head was inadvertent. It was an accident.”

Tamburino believes the driver should have never been charged at all because state law allows some use of force when it's reasonable and under certain circumstances. The statute specifically mentions school employees or bus drivers when restraining a child.

“In this case, what you had, was you had a child, and we'll prove this at trial, you had a child who was completely out of control,” said Tamburino. “And the bus driver used reasonable force, meaning to pick him up and put him in the seat. That's it.”

That statute will be the crux of the trial in January, a full year after the incident happened.  The driver still works for Owatonna Bus Company, but the boy’s mother wants him fired.

“I think about it every day,” said Laura Robinson. “I couldn't protect him and I still can't protect him. And the bus company is not protecting him. I'm scared. What if he does this to another child. What if he hurts another kid, worse.”

Tamburino say Heim’s a Vietnam veteran and drives buses as a part-time job during his retirement. Other than a few speeding tickets, he has a clean record.