A Colorado school bus driver who was caught on video slapping a 10-year-old girl for not properly wearing her mask is no longer employed, a district spokesperson said.
The Fremont County School District identified the driver as Bertram Jaquez. His employment ended April 14, two days after the incident.
The student said in a handwritten statement obtained by KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that she was seated in the back of the bus when a group of children told her to put her mask on. The girl, whose name was redacted, wrote that she told her classmates that she wasn't going to wear it because the mask makes her sick.
The girl started going "back and forth" with her classmates when the bus driver walked over to see what was going on, the statement reads.
The girl said that people kept telling her to put her mask on and that she "yelled at them and said you shut up your [sic] not involved in this," it reads. She said that's when the driver slapped her.
A video from the bus security camera shows that the girl had the mask pulled down below her nose. The video, obtained by KKTV, shows the driver striking the girl in the face.
Jaquez couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday at phone numbers listed for him. He said in a written statement obtained by KKTV that he was trying to explain to the child why she needed to wear a mask "and she just would not listen, yelling at me and the other girls."
He wrote that "out of reaction" he slapped the child once.
The incident was investigated by the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. KKTV reported that Jaquez faces misdemeanor charges, including harassment, assault causing injury and child abuse.
A school district spokesperson said in an emailed statement Wednesday that Jaquez was immediately placed on administrative leave and that an internal investigation found that his actions "justified termination of employment."
"Our school community is experiencing a very unfortunate situation. We have had a bus driver strike a child over the child not wearing a mask on the bus. We believe it is never okay to lay a hand on a child," the spokesperson said.
"We are very saddened by this incident. Our goal everyday is to transport students safely to school and back home, but that can only happen when everyone, including students and staff, follow the rules. We are currently working to identify next steps to help our drivers with strategies designed to support a safe ride to and from school."