Former St. Vrain bus aide sentenced to 20 months for assaulting student with disabilities

BOULDER, Colo. -- A former St. Vrain Valley School District school bus aide who pleaded guilty to assaulting a student with autism on his way to and from school was sentenced to 20 months in jail on Friday.

Monica Burke, 52, will also serve five years probation and 360 hours of community service after being sentenced by 20th Judicial District Judge Ingrid Bakke.

The St. Vrain Valley School District will pay a $3.85 million settlement to end a federal investigation into whether its employees harassed the student based on his race, national origin and disability -- and whether the district failed to properly respond to the incident.

The district's insurance carrier will pay $2 million of the $3.85 million settlement.

Burke, a Firestone resident, was charged with hitting and kicking 20-year-old Longmont student Shiva Rai, a Nepali-American who cannot speak because of autism, as he was taken to and from a school specializing in autism.

Burke was also accused of spraying disinfectant in Rai's face.

Burke pleaded guilty to second-degree assault against an at-risk person and third-degree assault. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed 44 original charges against her.

William Hall Jr., another former district employee, still faces trial. He's charged with failing to report abuse and exploitation of an at-risk person.

"The St. Vrain Valley School District has steadfastly demonstrated to the Rai family that it wanted to do its best to make Shiva whole," said the Rathod Mohamedbhai Law Firm, which represented the family.

"Ensuring the safety and security of students in our care is St. Vrain Valley School District’s highest priority," the district said in a statement.

"In August of 2016, our transportation officials received an allegation of misconduct and criminal behavior by Monica Burke against a student, Shiva Rai. District officials promptly filed a report of abuse and neglect to local law enforcement.

"Ms. Burke was immediately placed on administrative leave and no longer works for the school district. St. Vrain Valley School District in no way condones the unacceptable actions of Ms. Burke and offers our sincere apologies.

"Since learning of the abuse, the school district and the Rai family have been engaged in positive and proactive communication and were able to reach a resolution that supports the Rai family in providing for the future care of Shiva Rai.

"The actions of Ms. Burke are not indicative of the incredible staff that make the district an exceptional educational institution.

"As our organization reflects on this incident, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to the safety and well-being of all of our students."