On Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 22-year-old John-Paul Martinez of Fort Walton Beach was arrested by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) on charges of child abuse without great bodily harm.
- The arrest comes after an investigation by the OCSO revealed that Martinez, a school bus aide, had used inappropriate force in dealing with a six-year-old autistic student from Silver Sands School.
The investigation began on November 2, 2022, after the child’s grandmother reported suspicious reddish and blue marks on the child’s underarm and eye following a bus ride home on November 1st, according to the OCSO.
Upon reviewing bus footage, investigators discovered that the child, who was secured in a harness for his protection, had begun having a behavioral issue on the bus. Martinez reportedly physically restrained the child by forcefully grabbing his limbs, telling him to bite himself, and pulling on him while he was still secured in his harness.
When the child was interviewed with the assistance of his teacher, he indicated that the bus aide was mean to him, made him cry, and hurt his back.
- Martinez admitted that his actions were excessive and that he had other options he could have taken.
The Okaloosa School District staff was notified of the incident when it occurred, and Martinez was immediately placed on administrative leave pending further action. Superintendent Marcus Chambers released a statement condemning the alleged behavior and emphasizing the district’s commitment to student safety.
“The behavior alleged in this incident is absolutely unacceptable and does not represent the high standards of conduct that our hard-working employees uphold each and every day,” said Chambers. “Student safety will always be my number one priority. In situations where we fail to meet the standards we’ve set, individuals will be held accountable. We greatly appreciate the Sheriff’s Office for their work in this situation and truly value the partnership we have with them.”