De Blasio demands answers in school bus fiasco

Almost a dozen young children with disabilities were left on a stranded bus for hours after departing from the Morris Heights Educational Complex on the first day of school, and many are demanding an explanation.

On Thursday, September 8, 11 special education students between the ages of five and eight who were heading home from P. 23 at 1780 University Avenue were left on a bus for six hours with a matron after the bus driver left the bus after taking ill at Fordham Road and Morris Avenue, said Joseph Williams, Citywide Education Council president for District 75.

The last child was dropped off at 9:15 p.m., after leaving the school at 3 p.m., and parents were provided little information from the DOE and the bus company, said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. De Blasio has written to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott demanding answers.

“What these kids and parents went through was horrendous,” de Blasio said. “A simple phone call would have spared everyone, but instead parents got stonewalled at every turn.”

Reliable communication that keeps parents informed needs to be a priority when buses are delayed, de Blasio stated.

“As parents and guardians called the Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation and the bus company Lonero Transit Inc. to find their children, they were given a variety of instructions such as to call the police and meet the bus at a specific location, only to arrive with no bus in sight,” de Blasio said in the letter. “Now, nearly two weeks later, some of these students are still terrified to get on a school bus, requiring parents to keep them home from school or pay for a cab.”

De Blasio and the Citywide Education Council for District 75 is calling on the DOE to conduct a full investigation, including an accounting of events that occurred on the bus route; when the DOE was made aware of the missing bus; details regarding the communication between the school bus, bus company and the department; a justification for allowing the matron to continue on this route; and a clear explanation of current information sharing protocols in place for bus drivers and matrons when an emergency occurs.

Several children on the bus route were found covered in urine and feces when they were returned to their parents, de Blasio stated.

Both the bus matron and the bus driver, who has since been fired, had cell phones, Williams stated.

“We are not satisfied with the answer that the bus company is giving us, and we are still waiting for the Operation of Pupil Transportation to conduct a full investigation,” Williams said.

The Department of Education did not comment on the matter as of press time.

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