Why Are Disabled People Neglected?

CW: Neglect & Death

Authorities in New Jersey say a school bus monitor has been charged in the death of a 6-year-old girl who died after being fatally choked by a wheelchair harness without the bus monitor noticing it.

Fajr Atiya Williams lived with a condition called Emanuel syndrome. She used a wheelchair, and was unable to speak. “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,” her mother Namjah Nash Williams, told NBC New York.

Emanuel syndrome is characterized by developmental disabilities and several congenital defects. These include delayed growth, hypotonia, severe intellectual disability, microcephaly with characteristic facial features such as micrognathia, (a smaller than average mandible) protruding forehead, broad and flattened nasal root, long and pronounced philtrum, ear deformities with prearicular pits and/or appendages, high or cleft palate, and congenital heart defects, kidney anomalies, and genital anomalies in males.

It is caused by the presence of a supernumerary derived chromosome that contains material from chromosomes 11 and 22. The cause of this imbalance is a 3:1 malsegregation of a parental balanced translocation between chromosomes 11 and 22. This is the most common recurrent reciprocal translocation in humans.

Amanda Davila, 26, of New Brunswick, was arrested and charged on Monday, just days after the fatal incident, according to Somerset County Prosecutor John McDonald’s office.

Authorities were dispatched to the school that day after receiving a report of an unresponsive child. Officers came and performed CPR on the child before transporting her to a nearby hospital’s intensive care unit. According to McDonald’s office, she was later pronounced dead. Her father Wali says she had been without oxygen for 40 minutes.

An investigation revealed that Williams was seated in her wheelchair near the back of the bus on her way to school. Davila, who was assigned as the school bus monitor, had secured her wheelchair, according to McDonald’s office.

A series of road bumps forced the 6-year-old to slump in her wheelchair throughout the ride, leading the 4-point harness securing her to the chair to tighten around her neck and eventually block her airway, according to the county prosecutor’s office.

According to law enforcement while Williams was struggling, Davila, of New Brunswick, was sitting near the front of the bus. She was on her phone with earbuds in both ears. An investigation found that this was in violation of school policy. The bus is owned by Montauk Transit in Somerset, where the girl went to the Claremont school four days a week.

There is no excuse for abusing, neglecting, or killing disabled people. Disabled people deserve to live a life free from abuse and neglect. Some of America’s most vulnerable citizens are those with disabilities.


Antonakopoulos, Nikolaos, and Amar Bhide. ‘Focus on Prenatal Detection of Micrognathia’. Journal of Fetal Medicine, vol. 6, no. 3, Sept. 2019, pp. 107–112, https://doi.org10.1007/s40556-019-00210-0.

Battle, Pat, and Tom Shea. “6-Year-Old Girl Dies on NJ School Bus after Being Choked by Harness; Aide Arrested: Police.” NBC New York, 21 July 2023, http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/6-year-old-girl-dies-on-nj-school-bus-after-choked-by-harness-aide-arrested-police/4522740/#.

Carter, Melissa T., et al. ‘Phenotypic Delineation of Emanuel Syndrome (Supernumerary Derivative 22 Syndrome): Clinical Features of 63 Individuals’. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, vol. 149A, no. 8, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Aug. 2009, pp. 1712–1721, https://doi.org10.1002/ajmg.a.32957.

Da Silva, Chantal. “New Jersey School Bus Monitor Charged after Girl, 6, Fatally Choked by Wheelchair Harness, Officials Say.” NBC News, 21 July 2023, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna95477.

Lorita Mihovilović Prajz, et al. ‘102 Emanuel Syndrome – Case Report of a Rare Unbalanced Translocation Syndrome’. Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 106, no. Suppl 2, Oct. 2021, p. A43, https://doi.org10.1136/archdischild-2021-europaediatrics.102.


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