Cherry Hill Mom Says School Bus Staff Isolated and Abused Her Diabetic Son


Angela Chinnici says her fourth-grader was made to sit by himself on a bus of five kids because of his medical condition. She also alleges that one bus aide struck him multiple times, and that another aide and driver filed false conduct reports against the child.

By Matt Skoufalos | March 7, 2024

School bus yard. Photo by Robert Vunabandi on Unsplash

The mother of a nine-year-old Cherry Hill student with a chronic medical condition says her son was verbally abused by his bus drivers, physically abused by a bus aide, and targeted with false conduct reports when she complained about his mistreatment.

Angela Chinnici, whose son Dominic is a fourth-grader at Richard Stockton Elementary School, said the district eventually changed the transportation company on his route, but not until she had spent a month driving Dominic home from school herself out of concerns for his safety.

On January 10, Angela Chinnici wrote to Cherry Hill Public Schools Transportation Supervisor Linda King to discuss issues with the commute provided by Hillman Bus Service of West Berlin.

Since a driver change on the route in December, the children were arriving to school late almost daily, a detail she confirmed through the GPS in Dominic’s cell phone. Dominic, who has Type I diabetes, also was being forced to present his medical bag for examination before boarding because the aides thought he might be trying to smuggle his snare drum aboard.

In one interaction, Dominic said that after he’d told a bus driver and aide that he’s a vegetarian, the conversation allegedly turned to how much the aide liked hunting deer, and whether the child owned a rifle.

“I told them I was vegetarian, and they started talking about guns,” Dominic Chinnici said. “They asked me, ‘Do you own a rifle?’

“After that I’ve always sat by myself,” he said, “and everybody else has a seat buddy.”

Not only was Dominic made to sit apart from the other four children on the bus, but they were told consistently that the reason he was by himself because he is a diabetic, he said. The other children heard it said often enough that they could recount the rationale back to the aide after asking why Dominic was on his own.

“Every time after that, [the aide] would say, ‘We’ve told you many times,’” Dominic Chinnici said. “That’s discrimination.”

In follow-up e-mails with both King and Lori Boyle of Hillman’s Bus Service, Angela Chinnici was promised that the drivers would be arriving earlier, and would limit their conversations.

Angela and Dominic Chinnici with the family dogs Aspen and Nugget. Dominic says that when he told his bus driver he was a vegetarian, they started talking to him about hunting deer. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

On January 29, Boyle wrote to her, saying, “Please be advised that I spoke with both the driver and the aide regarding topics of conversation that are permitted on the school bus.

“Additionally, I discussed with them when it would be appropriate/inappropriate to search students’ personal belongings.

“Moving forward, please expect our employees to greet your son on the bus and the only conversation should be contained to keeping students safe on the bus,” the e-mail continued.

In that same message, Boyle wrote that Dominic would continue to sit by himself, however, because in an emergency “he needs to be accessible without [staff] having to ask other students to move.”

Yet later that same day, when Dominic’s glucose alarms were going off, alerting him of his low blood sugar, Angela Chinnici said the bus driver and aide told him to silence his phone instead of assisting him.

“They’re like, ‘Can you turn off the volume?’” Dominic Chinnici recalled. “I said no. They said, ‘Can you wear headphones?’ I can’t. If I’m too low, my mom will call; if something’s going on with the cell service, I just have juice.”

On the afternoon of January 29, Angela Chinnici wrote to King, Boyle, and Stockton principal James Riordan to say that she was pulling Dominic from the bus until safe transportation could be arranged.

Just five days earlier, Riordan had called her to report that Dominic said the aide on the morning bus route allegedly struck him in his wearable glucose monitor. He also said that the woman, whose name he does not know, had hit him before, on two separate occasions.

“The first time she hit me, I thought it was on accident,” he said. “She was telling us, ‘No talking.’ I was singing really quiet Christmas carols. My friends couldn’t even hear me. And she would come up every time, smack the back of the seat, and scream at me, ‘No talking!’

“The first time I thought it was an accident,” Dominic Chinnici said. “And then it happened again, so I let it slide.

“The third time, she hit me really hard in the CGM [continuous glucose monitor], and it really hurt,” he said. “She jabbed me in the arm, and said, ‘You have to listen!’”

A Cherry Hill Schools bus conduct report signed by Hillman driver Dawn Weido. Provided by Angela Chinnici.

Dominic said that he only reported the third incident because it was painful. But he admitted that his daily experiences eventually started to wear on him.

“Once I cried on the bus because of stuff,” he said. “When the bus aide hit me, I cried a little bit then. When the bus driver had me sit by myself because I was diabetic, I would cry.”

“Three times she hit him,” Angela Chinnici said. “I would have never believed that an adult working with children would hit him.”

She said that Riordan reported the alleged abuse to the state Division of Child Permanency and Protection as well as to the Cherry Hill Police. She and Dominic have spoken with investigators at both; he said his friends have been interviewed about the incident as well.

In addition to the physical and verbal abuse, however, one of the Hillman bus drivers, Dawn Weido, filed multiple conduct reports about Dominic’s behavior on the bus that the school was unable to substantiate.

On January 25, Weido, Dominic’s afternoon bus driver, wrote that “he was leaning out in the walk isle [sic] to put his phone so everyone would see what he was watching on it… [and] continued this until everyone stopped talking or he was the center of attention.”

On January 26, Weido submitted another conduct report, alleging that Dominic was playing with his seatbelt throughout the ride, and trying to engage with the other children on the bus with a stuffed animal.

“It is distracting to my driving when I have to continually look up, taking my eyes off the road, to see Dominic leaning out in his seat, because my aid [sic] was told by the district to sit behind him, not to sit across from him,” she wrote.

@school.bus.verbal.abuse He has been told many times by the driver and aide that he’s not allowed to sit with the other kids because “he’s diabetic.” #specialneeds #juvenilediabetes #diabetes #helpme #fyp ♬ original sound – Concerned parent

Riordan’s notes on both discipline forms mention that he spoke with Angela Chinnici about technology use on the bus, and that “Dominic is permitted to use his phone for his medical app.” Moreover, the principal didn’t discipline the child for any of his behavior in the alleged incidents because he couldn’t find any evidence that he had committed the infractions documented.

After the conversation about deer hunting, Dominic began recording his bus rides on his cell phone. Angela Chinnici collected his footage, transcribed the encounters, and posted several of the recordings to a TikTok account that she created to chronicle the issues.

Not long after she posted them, a user named Courtnie Burton started making allegations about Dominic’s behavior on the bus in the comments under her videos, even though Angela Chinnici had never identified her son by name on TikTok.

On February 28, a third conduct report came across Riordan’s desk, alleging that Dominic had told another student, “I’m going to kill you by shoving your head into a fountain and drowning you.” It was signed by Courtnie Burton, whom Angela Chinnici learned was the Hillman bus aide on Dominic’s morning commute.

Angela Chinnici said the audio from the bus ride doesn’t support any of the alleged details in Burton’s story; similarly, she claims Riordan told her that after interviewing the other four children on the bus, none of them corroborated Burton’s version of events.

TikTok comment and conduct report, both attributed to Courtnie Burton. Provided by Angela Chinnici.

“It was all made up,” she said. “This is the third falsified report.”

By March 1, the district had replaced Dominic’s driver with a new operator from T&L Transportation of Gibbsboro, and Angela Chinnici said her son is back to riding the bus without incident. The change has brightened his spirits considerably.

“We don’t have assigned seats, so we can sit wherever we want,” Dominic said. “We’re allowed to sit together.”

However, Angela Chinnici is frustrated by what her son endured, as well as by her belief that Weido is still transporting other Cherry Hill students. She said the district hasn’t responded to her requests for more information about the investigation, or explained why Hillman is still serving other routes at Stockton Elementary.

“I don’t know how we ended up with this new bus,” Angela Chinnici said. “I am thrilled that we have the new bus, but this is not okay.

“I need to know that there’s repercussions for the way these drivers and these aides have treated these children,” she said. “Somebody else’s kids are now dealing with these people today.”

No one else connected with these incidents has responded to requests for comment. Boyle was reached at Hillman Bus Service, and declined to address the situation.

Riordan referred requests for comment to Cherry Hill Public Schools Communications Director, Barbara Wilson, who did not return messages; neither did King, the district transportation director, nor other of its transportation coordinators, reply to requests for comment.

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