New Jersey school bus monitor charged after using cellphone as disabled girl suffocated

21 July 2023

FRANKLIN. N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey school bus monitor has been charged with manslaughter and child endangerment after authorities say she was using her cellphone and failed to notice a disabled 6-year-old being suffocated by a seat belt.

Amanda Davila, 27, of New Brunswick, was charged in the death of Faja Williams, who was found unresponsive when she arrived at Claremont Elementary School in Franklin Park on Monday. She was taken to a hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after.

Davila was sitting near the front of the bus when it hit bumps on the road in Franklin Township, authorities said. The bumpy ride caused Williams to slump in her wheelchair, and the 4-point harness that secured her to her chair tightened around her neck, restricting her airway, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

Davila was charged Wednesday and made her initial court appearance Thursday. It wasn’t clear Friday if she’s retained an attorney, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Williams was born with Emanuel syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder which left her unable to speak or walk but still able to make sounds. She was attending classes as part of an extended school year.

“She was the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet. She had the sweetest little laugh, little dimples and she just endured so much in her six years,” said her mother, Namjah Nash Williams. “She did not deserve this, to be taken away from us in such a way, that had nothing to do with her condition.”

Authorities said Davila violated policies and procedures by using the ear buds and her cell phone while she was supposed to be monitoring the child.

Franklin Township school officials declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Montauk Bus of Franklin, which operated the bus, also declined to comment.

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