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Parents Protest After Police Called on 7-Year-Old with Autism Who Took Off His Mask

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 4/8/2021 Shomari Stone
a person wearing a hat: A bus dispatcher called police after Chioma Oruh’s son, Jedi, kept taking off his mask. Jedi has autism. As seen on April 7, 2021. © Provided by NBC Washington D.C.

A bus dispatcher called police after Chioma Oruh’s son, Jedi, kept taking off his mask. Jedi has autism. As seen on April 7, 2021.

A mother and dozens of concerned parents protested outside the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night after police were called to a boy’s school bus because the boy, who has autism, kept taking off his mask. 

“I was hurt, like really hurt,” Chioma Oruh said about the moment police were called on her 7-year-old son, Jedi, after he kept removing his mask around two weeks ago.

Jedi and his 10-year-old brother take a school bus that is managed by OSSE.

“And he took the mask off on the bus because he has a sensory processing condition, along with his autism,” Oruh said. “The trust I put in OSSE was just violated.”

Oruh recorded her interaction with police and the bus driver. She said they were both polite and that she does not blame police for responding, but questioned why the bus dispatcher -- who was on speaker phone with the driver at the time -- called law enforcement.

“I was very annoyed. I was starting to cry because I couldn’t believe how this happened,” Oruh said.  

OSSE and a spokesperson provided a written statement, saying:

“An OSSE Division of Student Transportation bus driver called for MPD support to help de-escalate a situation in which a parent would not leave a school bus, which was impairing the ability of the bus to transport students to school. The call was made after the driver and her dispatcher had been in conversation with the parent and there was disagreement about safety protocols for her child on the bus, and the parent refused to leave the vehicle.”

Oruh said she never got on the bus. Her video starts when police arrived.

She also wondered why the bus driver did not have her son’s doctor’s note that states Jedi “should not be excluded or sent home if he refuses to wear the mask as long as he remains symptom-free and has no known COVID contacts.”

An OSSE spokesperson said Jedi’s school did not send over the doctor’s note prior to the bus arriving. 

Those at the rally said police should not be called to respond to kids with special needs.

While OSSE investigates, Oruh hopes to receive an apology and wants OSSE to change their practice of calling police on children at school.

News4 reached out to Jedi’s school for comment and is waiting to hear back.

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