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Garcia: Stopping Sex Assaults 'Not My Responsibility'

Pedro Garcia, former Metro Schools director Pedro Garcia, former Metro Schools director
Sandra Burton, Metro's special-ed bus coordinator Sandra Burton, Metro's special-ed bus coordinator
Mothers of special-needs children watched testimony about sexual assaults of special-ed students Mothers of special-needs children watched testimony about sexual assaults of special-ed students
school board member David Fox school board member David Fox

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro students headed home with their final report cards on Thursday, and some parents gave out a letter grade of their own. Many parents gave former schools director Pedro Garcia an "F."

Three moms of special-ed students became angered as they watched Garcia testify under oath about sexual assaults of special-ed students on Metro buses, and NewsChannel 5's Chief Investigator Phil Williams obtained those tapes in this NewsChannel 5 Investigates exclusive.

Who was protecting the children on Metro's special education buses? For months, school officials dodged that question, but school officials were finally forced to answer under oath. The answers school officials gave left three mothers of special-needs children shaking their heads.

"I'm absolutely appalled," Lynne Beery said.

"That disgusts me to be honest with you," added Wendy Tucker.

"I'm stunned, and it angers me as a parent," Tonya Bowman echoed.

In fact, long before the first student, an 11-year-old autistic girl named Jenna, was molested on her bus Metro's special-ed bus coordinator testified that school officials had worried something terrible just might happen.

"I was afraid, I'm still afraid for the safety of the drivers and the children," said Sandra Burton, Metro's special-ed bus coordinator.

According to Burton, the solution was to put aides on the buses.

"Everybody agreed that we needed monitors, but nobody wanted to take the responsibility of hiring monitors," Burton said.

"The special ed department, the transportation department, everybody's talking about the danger on this bus. And nobody's doing anything about it," Tucker said.

And in the deposition of then-schools director Pedro Garcia, the children's lawyer asked, "Have you suggested, recommended that there ought to be more monitors employed?"

"No," Garcia replied.

More monitors still wasn't on Garcia's agenda even after Gilbert, a 9-year-old special-needs boy, was sexually assaulted on his bus by a student 10 years older.

During the deposition, Garcia sat across the table from Gilbert's mom.

Lawyer: "Might you not have called her?"
Garcia: "You want me to call her?"
Lawyer: "I think it would have been a decent thing to do, yes."
Garcia: "Well, that wasn't my reaction."

"That should have been the first thing he did," Beery said.

"The mom's in the room with him, and he doesn't look at mom. He doesn't say, 'I'm sorry.' He doesn't say, 'I wish this had not happened to your child' - nothing, no emotion,"  Bowman said.

And despite continuing allegations of sexual assaults on Metro's special-ed buses, the schools director never followed up.

Lawyer: "You didn't do anything in response to that?'
Garcia: "It wouldn't be my responsibility to do so."

That responsibility, he testified, was the job of his subordinates.

"If it was my job to do, I wouldn't need them to do it," Garcia said.

"I'd love to know what his job was," Tucker said.

But what really got these mothers was this:

"I'm just looking for someone who might have said: This is awful, how did this happen, how can we stop it?" the children's lawyer said.

Staring blankly back at his questioner, "I don't know who that person is," Garcia said.

"I cannot understand how he can take absolutely no responsibility in this at all," an exasperated Beery said. "He just kept going, 'It's not my problem, it's not my problem to take care of.'"

"I'm real glad he's gone. That was my reaction," Tucker said.

Garcia even testified that no one from the school board ever questioned him about the sexual assault. When school board chair Marsha Warden was questioned she refused to answer any questions about what was being done to protect the children?

Lawyer: "No one has asked you anything about it?"
Garcia: "No."
Lawyer: "No one said, 'What are you going to do about it?'"
Garcia: "No."

It was a failure that school board member David Fox acknowledged after the mayor intervened.

"I think we do take responsibility for it. The buck stops ultimately with the board of education," Fox said.

Taking responsibility is one thing these mothers think Garcia seemed incapable of admitting.

Metro school officials insisted they have been working on a plan to put more aides on special-ed buses next year, but on Wednesday officials couldn't say what that plan will look like.

Watch more videos and follow the stories at NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse

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