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Parents of children sexually abused by school bus driver sue CCSD

Updated May 31, 2024 - 5:21 pm

The children who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Clark County School District bus driver have, through their parents, filed a lawsuit alleging that the district either knew or should have known the risk they faced.

The former driver, Michael Banco, was ordered to serve 35 years to life in prison in 2018 after prosecutors said he sexually assaulted “very small” children in the back of his bus. Having initially faced 41 charges, Banco pleaded guilty to one count each of sexual assault with a minor under 16 and lewdness with a child under 14.

The complaint, filed on May 24, was brought on behalf of siblings “R.E.R.” and “R.J.R,” students on Banco’s bus route. Now 13 and 15 years old respectively, they were only 4 and 5 when the abuse began.

The complaints brought against Banco and the district describe a pattern of him abusing children enrolled in CCSD’s special education program.

At the time, the prosecutor who handled the case, Sam Martinez, called it “by far the most horrific case” he had ever worked on, while District Judge Elissa Cadish called the facts outlined in court “incomprehensible.”

According to police, a surveillance camera on the bus Banco drove showed him molesting and assaulting children in the back of the bus before taking them home on three separate days.

Over the course of those days, parents complained to the school and bus transportation facility that their children were arriving home late, according to the complaint.

“At a minimum, CCSD should have reviewed the video surveillance tapes to determine the cause of the delays,” the complaint alleges. “However, this was never done.”

Because of the sexual abuse and CCSD’s failures to adequately protect its students, the lawsuit alleges, plaintiff R.E.R. suffered “unjustifiable physical injury and emotional and mental anguish,” which she “will have to contend with for the rest of her life.”

R.J.R. being forced to witness his younger sister being abused left him with emotional and mental anguish that he will also face for the rest of his life, the lawsuit says.

“We understand the gravity of their experiences and are dedicated to doing all that we can at this point, which is to ensure that their voices are heard,” said attorney Alanna Bondy, of Sgro & Roger, the law firm that is representing the plaintiffs.

Banco, 64, whose sentence is the maximum he could have faced, is currently being held in the Lovelock Correctional Center. He becomes eligible for parole in 2040, according to Nevada Department of Corrections records.

R.E.R. and R.J.R., through their guardians, are requesting damages for the pain and suffering endured, punitive damages against the defendants, attorneys fees and more, records show.

Two other lawsuits filed by more of Banco’s victims ended up costing CCSD $18 million in recent years, with both suits bringing in $9 million settlements.

According to the complaint, R.E.R. experienced behavioral issues related to food. This was included in her individualized education plan, which Banco was aware of and used to groom her, the lawsuit says.

Because R.E.R. and her brother both had additional needs in school, the complaint argues that CCSD’s budget allocated funding for an aide to be placed on the bus. But the district did not do so, the lawsuit alleges.

The school district had also been made aware of other complaints regarding Banco’s interactions with students, particularly those in need of additional support in school, and those should have served as warning signs, according to the lawsuit.

The “indifference” of CCSD to Banco’s abuse, the complaint alleges, amounts to a violation Title IX, a federal law that protects against discrimination in schools. The suit also alleges a “systematic failure to create policies and procedures that create and preserve a safe environment for children.”

In addition to the school district, several people employed by CCSD at the time are named as defendants. They include former Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, former Director of Transportation Compliance and Safety Karen Johnson, former Transportation Operations Manager Christopher Jackson and former Bus Operations Coordinator Nathaniel Whitney.

Clark County School District declined to comment on pending litigation.

Contact Estelle Atkinson at eatkinson@reviewjournal.com.

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