COLUMBIA, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – More than four years have passed since two special needs children onboard a Chesterfield County school bus were attacked by an older student with documented history of violence in his school records.

The two victims: a four-year-old girl names Autumn Angle and a six-year-old boy named Nyzeil Wilson. Both have now won monetary settlements from the CCSD and SC Department of Education totaling nearly $2.5 million.

Autumn Angle and Nyzeil Wilson were the two nonverbal autistic children attacked onboard a Chesterfield County School bus on Nov. 8, 2018. Their families reached settlement agreements totaling nearly $2.5 million from the district and the SC Department of Education. (Photo Provided)

Over the course of two bus rides on Nov. 5, 2018, the attacker, a nine-year-old boy identified only as “JM” landed more than 100 punches, kicks, bites, slaps, pinches, and the little girl with her head slammed into the back of her bus seat.

The bus driver, 68-year-old Ronnie Sires, later testified he didn’t see the attacks although the onboard bus video showed Sires call JM down a few times in the video. Sires, who was the only adult on the bus, was driving the bus when most of the attacks happened, the video shows.

The Chesterfield County School District had received warnings from the South Carolina Department of Education two months before the attacks that operating special needs buses without adult attendants was, “Putting the driver in charge of medical and behavioral disorders along with a higher level of driving awareness could potentially endangers [sic] the students, general driving public and the driver,” SCDOE bus driver trainer PJ Krause wrote in a September 2018 email to the district.

The SCDOE email came after a Chesterfield County School District special needs bus driver complained to the district and the SCDOE about a lack of adult attendants on the district’s special needs buses. At the time, the CCSD had only one attendant on its 12 special needs buses.

The district later admitted in deposition testimony it took no action to hire attendants after the state’s warning. The lawsuit also revealed the CCSD never told the state about what happened on that bus ride – including Sires’ arrest – until the Angle family released the video of the bus attack to the media.

Chesterfield County bus driver Ronnie Sires carries four-year-old Autumn Angle off the special needs bus on Nov. 5, 2018. The bus video recordings showed a nine-year-old student attacking Angle at least 96 times, according to Angle’s attorney. The CCSD eventually paid a $2 million settlement in the case. (Source: CCSD)

The SCDOE said it found out about the attack and Sires’ arrest in April 2019 – more than four months later – after someone at SCDOE saw the news reports. Deposition testimony also revealed the CCSD administration also did not tell its own board of the state’s warnings about how it operated its special needs buses.  

Angle’s parents sued the district, former CCSD Superintendent Dr. Harrison Goodwin, Sires, and the SCDOE. After more than three years of fighting the district in court, the defendants agreed to pay the Angle family $2 million and the SCDOE agreed to pay more than $187,000 to settle the lawsuit.

On Feb. 17, 2023 Circuit Court Judge Paul Burch signed a settlement agreement between CCSD, Goodwin, Sires, and the SCDOE paying Nyzeil Wilson’s family an additional $223,437.50.

That Nov. 5, 2018 school bus ride cost taxpayers $2,410,437.50.


In December, Rep. Richie Yow filed two bills aimed at stopping what happened on that Chesterfield County special needs bus from happening again in South Carolina. One bill would make it illegal for a school district in the state to operate without an adult attendant.

The other bill would force districts to share student behavioral and health information with bus drivers; information that would notify a driver of a student who may need extra attention onboard.

Rep. Richie Yow (R-Chesterfield County) lays out his special needs bus bill to a House subcommittee on Feb. 21, 2023.

The attendant bill was assigned to the House Education and Public Works Committee. Until last Friday morning, the bill had stalled in the committee without a hearing scheduled.

Since January, we contacted committee chair Rep. Shannon Erickson multiple times asking whether she planned to schedule a hearing on the bill. Erickson did not answer multiple messages left for her via email, phone, Twitter, and in-person visits to her State House office.

Late Friday, the attendant bill was scheduled for a subcommittee hearing. That hearing happened on Feb. 21 in Columbia.

“This bill that that you got in front of you has stemmed from an incident that happened in Chesterfield County,” Rep. Yow told the subcommittee during the hearing. “We have had an issue where a child was really, really hurt. Some information didn’t make it out to the public, it didn’t make it out to the board, the child was not protected.”

Yow was the first to testify. The Chesterfield County lawmaker met with SCDOE’s in-house lobbyist, Phillip Cease, the week before the hearing. Cease told Yow the agency polled multiple districts about whether they put adult attendants on special needs buses.

Only 52 of the state’s 72 school districts responded to the SCDOE survey. The agency did not provide a list of which districts responded.

SC Department of Education government affairs director, Phillip Cease, told the subcommittee passing a bill is unnecessary since the agency could create regulations to force districts to put adult attendants on special needs buses.

The SCDOE provided data showing 77% of the districts responding restrained special needs children on what the district described as “handicapped buses.” The survey showed 95% of the districts that responded used adult attendants on those buses.

We asked the agency for an interview regarding this report and its payment to Nyzeil Wilson’s family, but the agency would not agree to be interviewed, “No comment on the settlement from the agency at this time,” an email from the SCDOE’s press office stated.

The email did not include the name of the person providing the data or statement.

“The department doesn’t understand why this legislation was introduced,” Cease told the subcommittee on Feb. 21, despite having met with the bill’s author, Rep. Yow, a week earlier. “Upon further investigation, under current statutes, the department is able to write legislations and the state board of education is able to adopt those regulations so that local school districts have to abide by those. So, we can promulgate regulations in house without the need of additional legislation.”

Cease was the only speaker besides Yow to address the subcommittee. At least one committee member, Rep. Terry Alexander, was ready to end debate on the bill to allow the SCDOE to work on its own rule instead of the legislature passing a law.

“Any questions about the Department of Education handling this within their own structure,” Rep. Paula Calhoon asked the subcommittee. “Yes. You said we could promulgate regulations. So, Madam Chair, if we would, could we adjourn debate on this particular bill and is allowed to go to those proper procedure to the regulations committee,” Rep. Alexander said.

Patrick McLaughlin’s legal work secured nearly $2.5 million from the Chesterfield County School District and the SC Department of Education for his clients, two special needs children attacked on a school bus in 2018. McLaughlin listens as a SCDOE lobbyist testifies before a House subcommittee on Feb. 21, 2023. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Calhoon told Alexander one other person was signed up to speak to the subcommittee. That person was the attorney who represented Autumn Angle and Nyzeil Wilson, Patrick McLaughlin.

“I’m here today to speak on behalf of two children who cannot speak,” McLaughlin told the subcommittee as he waved a packet he’d sent the committee detailing what happened to his clients and the district’s handling of it.

“On the front cover of that packet is why I’m here. That’s Autumn Angle and Horace Nyzeil Wilson. I’m here today to speak for Autumn and Nyzeil because they can’t speak. They are both nonverbal autistic children. Their parents couldn’t be here today either because their parents have special needs children at home. They can’t afford to take off to Columbia to appear in front of you and let you know how important this legislation is to them,” McLaughlin told the lawmakers.

McLaughlin admitted he stood to gain more if lawmakers killed the bill than he would if it passed.

“So I took time out of my day to appear in front of y’all quite frankly, in a manner that is against my pecuniary interest. I was the lawyer that represented these children when representative Yow’s school district and South Carolina School Board’s Insurance Trust and South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund had to pay out over $2.4 million because they did not do something as simple as having an adult attendant on a bus when they knew it was a problem,” McLaughlin said.

The Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office charged bus driver Ronnie Sires with unlawful neglect of a child following the Nov. 5, 2018 bus route. (Source: Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office)

McLaughlin reminded lawmakers the SCDOE had four years to implement the regulations to require adult attendants and to force school districts to share health and safety information with special needs bus drivers.

“So, when I hear Mr. Cease get up here and explain to y’all today, how y’all don’t need to pass a law that the Department of Ed is going to take care of this with regulations, where’s the regs? Where have they been? This happened in 2018. The school district had been warned by the Department of Ed two months before these attacks happened; if you don’t put an adult attendant on these buses, with children that have mental and emotional issues, you are putting the driver, the other children on the bus and the general public at risk. The department of ed knew that,” McLaughlin said.

“The Department of Ed knows it. They knew that this was a problem, and they never passed the regs. And now they want to stand in front of you as y’all consider passing this law and say, ‘We don’t need you to pass this law, we’re gonna get right on it.’ I beg your pardon. If my clients don’t quite trust that, if my clients would prefer to see you guys take the initiative and pass the law,” the attorney told lawmakers.

Rep. Erickson suggested the public – and lawmakers – should give the new administration at the SCDOE time to draw up the regulations. State Superintendent Ellen Weaver took office last month.

“The other piece of it, though, I would say is we’ve got a brand-new regime at the State Department of Education. You’re seeing attention from them. You’re seeing teamwork from them and an offer that no, we didn’t have from a regime that was earlier. I can’t control that. I wasn’t a committee chair on that, on that years of those situations, either,” Erickson said to Cease.

Cease could not give lawmakers a time frame on when the agency could have written regulations delivered to the committee when asked twice by two separate lawmakers.

“But my question to you is, has anything been done since, as the gentleman said, this was what, 2018? Have there been conversations? Or is, is there even potential regulations that’s already out there? Or what’s the status on it? I guess that’s my question, because I am concerned that it’s that this hasn’t happened yet,” Rep. Deon Tedder asked Cease.

Rep. Shannon Erickson told lawmakers during the Feb. 21, 2023 subcommittee hearing that lawmakers may “need to tweak” bus regulations to address what happened in Chesterfield County. (WJZT Photo/Jody Barr)

“As chairlady Erickson referenced, there was a new administration that came in about a month and some change ago, since that administration has changed over there have been numerous conversations about this. And we’ve already begun working on the regulations and talking with stakeholders about the best way to go forward on what the regulations should look like,” Cease told members.

“There are a lot of school districts that already do this and have policies on the books. So, part of what we’re doing is looking at those policies to see what those look like and works,” the lobbyist explained.

Rep. Jeff Bradley, chair of the SC House Regulations and Administration and Procedures Committee, asked Cease to bring his committee written regulations to the House within the next 30 days.

Cease agreed.

Once the regulations are presented, the regulations committee will have to vote to approve them and send the regulations to the senate. If approved by both chambers, the new bus regulations would become part of the state’s code of regulations.

We’ll continue to update our ‘The Longest Ride’ investigation as developments happen.