FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — In May, Fort Collins Police arrested Tyler Zanella, 36, on counts of assault and abuse of a child on a school bus. The victim was described by police as a kindergartner with disabilities.
Police said there have been multiple other Poudre School District families coming forward with allegations against Zanella. Now, the district is making changes to keep any abuse from happening.
They say for the kindergartner, the abuse happened several times.
“There a lot of questions around what our hiring practices are here in Poudre School District, and rightfully so,” said Madeline Noblett, a district spokesperson.
The district is under the microscope after firing the man who was arrested in the case.
School bus worker had child abuse on his record
Noblett explained that they’re taking a magnifying glass to hiring policies.
“We do background checks on every individual who applies for a position here, and then evaluate if there is a charge in their background, and then evaluate that on the basis of frequency, duration and when that offense occurred in their past,” Noblett said.
Because of federal and state laws, the district may not avoid hiring someone solely because of a crime in the past.
The district said it is working with attorneys on how to alter its policy of hiring someone with a history of child abuse.
“Individuals with some misdemeanors related to some crimes with child victims would not be eligible to work in certain positions in our school district unless they could also be observed by multiple other adults while they were in contact with children,” Noblett said.
That is just a proposed change to their hiring policy. The district is still determining the legality of this proposal.
“The former bus paraprofessional (Zanella) did have a misdemeanor for child abuse in his background,” Noblett said.
New training for bus drivers, paraprofessionals
“As of this week,” Noblett said, “all of our bus drivers and paraprofessionals are going through a whole host of training that we believe will be able to help them better support every student on every bus as an individual.”
Another change at Poudre schools: Video from buses will be reviewed by supervisors on a weekly basis. That is how the allegations against Zanella were investigated.
The district is also starting a support center for folks to report concerns or abuse. They can be reached at 970-490-3333