FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WABC) — A New Jersey school bus monitor charged in connection with the death of a young student in a wheelchair was ordered released from custody with several conditions following a detention hearing Tuesday morning.
Court documents allege 27-year-old Amanda Davila sat with headphones in, looking at her phone for 14 minutes as the 6-year-old girl she was hired to help protect struggled for her life just feet away.
It happened last week after Fajr Atiya Williams, a special needs student, was on her way to an extended school program at the Claremont School in Franklin Township.
Fajr died after the 4-prong seat harness that secured her wheelchair on the bus became wrapped around her neck.
Davila has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. Court filings say Davila paid no attention to the girl, who was nonverbal and made no sounds.
At Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors argued that Davila would be a flight risk because she faces serious jail time and poses a threat to children.
But her lawyer claimed in court that she has never been in trouble with the law, was raised in New Brunswick, New Jersey and is the mother of a two-year-old with special needs.
She has worked as a bus monitor for seven years and never had a problem. Under bail reform laws, the state has to prove she would be a danger to the community.
Citing current guidelines, the judge ordered Davila to be released.
Fajr Williams’ parents sat in court listening to the 43-minute-long detention hearing.
“I don’t know how to feel about her release,” said Fajr’s mother, Namjah Nash. “I was prepared for her release… I thought I was. But as long as they are following the law, I don’t have any choice but to accept it.”
According to the terms of her release, Davila is not allowed to work with, or have contact with, school-age children or the victim’s parents.
If found guilty of the manslaughter and child endangerment charges, she could spend five to ten years in jail.
Her attorney, Michael Policastro, told Eyewitness News he is not surprised the judge ordered her release despite the painful nature of this case.
“She’s 27 years old, she graduated from New Brunswick High School, born and raised there,” said Policastro. “She’s never been in a fight before, never had any problems. So it’s just such a tragedy, such a tragedy.”
The school bus company, Montauk Transit, has released the following statement about the case:
“We at Montauk Transit are all devastated by the loss of Fajr. We all extend our deepest condolences to the family and are grieving as a Company. All of our employees know that the safety of children we transport is our top priority, which is why we are fully engaged in the law enforcement investigation and support any punishment that the justice system determines appropriate for the bus monitor who has been arrested.”
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