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A 5-year-old non-verbal autistic boy was dropped off by his school bus six blocks from his Asbury Park home. Courtesy of News12
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POINT PLEASANT - A school bus driver and bus aide were fired after allegedly leaving an Ocean Road Elementary School preschooler behind in a locked and garaged bus on a warm day.Now the child's mother is speaking out, expressing concerns that the school has not done enough to inform parents about what happened. "If this happened to a different kid, not my son, I would want to know so I can make the decision about what’s best for my child," Alana Hunt said.
On May 2, a school bus driven by Richard Cohen and aided by Marge Bartolomeo — both substitutes — dropped off students at Ocean Road at approximately 9:10 a.m., a police report about the incident states.But when Cohen, 67, and Bartolomeo, 72, took the bus back to the transportation garage 15 minutes later, Hunt's 3-year-old son, Tanner, who has special needs, was still strapped in his car seat, Hunt said.RELATED: Asbury Park student left at wrong bus stopCohen and Bartolomeo reportedly locked the bus with the child left alone inside, according to officials. It's not clear if the bus personnel performed a final check of the bus, locking the back hatch and putting seatbelts over the backs of each seat, as per district policy.
But if that check were done, they would have found Tanner, Hunt said.The child was able to get out of his car seat and made his way to the front of the bus, which Hunt said shows that he wasn't properly secured in the first place. According to police, a passing student from the adjacent high school noticed Tanner on the bus at approximately 10:30 a.m.
Jonathan Triebwasser, the district's transportation supervisor, opened a rear door to let Tanner off the bus, according to police. "The child had a red face from crying, however (he) did not feel as if he was overheated," Triebwasser told police.The average temperature on May 2 was 75 degrees.ARE THEY SAFE? Parents of special needs students say their kids are at risk on busesSuperintendent Vincent Smith confirmed that a child had been left on the bus but declined to comment on the circumstances that led to the child being forgotten. Reports were filed with both the Department of Education and Department of Child Protection and Permanency, he said. Both Cohen and Bartolomeo were fired shortly after the incident, Smith said.
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Howell Township police have released video surveillance footage from a school bus in Howell when the driver was confronted in a road rage incident. Andrew Goudsward, Mike Davis and Erik Larsen, Wochit
"It happened, and we acknowledge that," he said. "Unfortunately, he was left there. But the young man was safe. It's something you hope you never have happen in your school district."But Hunt said she is worried that the school won't make the appropriate changes to ensure this doesn't happen again. She said the school typically notifies parents if their students are absent, but that policy is not in place for its preschool program, which is open to developmentally delayed students.She didn't know anything was amiss until the school called her at 11:16 a.m. — 45 minutes after her son was found — saying there was an incident and that they needed her to come to the school to speak with them.CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Howell school bus become subject of road rage "I have two kids at Ocean Road. I get called about Band-Aids," she said. And her son didn't receive treatment from paramedics — only a snack and a check-up from the school nurse. "I feel like I’m getting the run around," she said.
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NHTSA changed its view on students strapping-in on school buses. But that doesn't mean buses will have seat belts anytime soon.
Smith said the district had set up meetings with Hunt and other parents to review and discuss changes to transportation procedures. "We've been addressing these concerns as a district and with the parents directly," he said. "Obviously, we take this very seriously."But Hunt said the school should have alerted the parents of the other eight to 10 students on the bus about the incidents, allowing them to decide if it was safe enough for their children to ride."This could have been fatal any way you turn," she said. Watch a video at the top of the page for another school bus incident, when an Asbury Park student was dropped off at the wrong stop.Mike Davis; @byMikeDavis: 732-643-4223; mdavis@gannetnj.comSusanne Cervenka: @scervenka; 732-643-4229; scervenka@gannettnj.com
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