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Boy With Disabilities Forgotten on School Bus: Why Didn’t Someone Ask Where He Was?

Boy With Disabilities Forgotten on School Bus: Why Didn’t Someone Ask Where He Was?


A 4-year-old boy with disabilities was left — forgotten — on a school bus for more than four hours in Jersey City on Wednesday. The Star-Ledger reports:

The special needs student was picked up in the northeast part of the city at about 7:45 a.m. and was scheduled to be dropped off at School 3 for an extended-year school program, said Thomas Comey, the chief of Jersey City’s Police Department.

Instead, at approximately 1:10 p.m., a mechanic employed by Winsale Corp. discovered the boy in a Winsale bus at a bus storage yard on Newark Avenue, officials said. The police were called and an ambulance brought the boy to Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where he was treated and released.

“We are dealing with a child who has special needs and our ability to communicate with him orally is severely limited, which is making the investigation a little bit more difficult,” Comey said.

The boy seems to be all right, despite being locked on a schoolbus on a day when it was about 90 degrees and probably hotter in Jersey City. Both the bus driver and the aide have been fired.

Sadly, one reads about cases like this regularly. The boy’s disability is not specified; it sounds like he has speech delays and/or a speech disability and might even be on the autism spectrum. Not only is not able to tell his parents and the investigators what happened, he was also very likely not able to tell the aide or the bus driver that he had not been dropped off at school and was still on the bus.

I’m also wondering if teachers at the boy’s school program were concerned when he did not get off the bus. In every special education program my teenage autistic son Charlie has been in, if he didn’t get off the bus and we hadn’t called to say he would be absent, you can be sure the school nurse would be calling us to ask where he was. Someone at the 4-year-old boy’s school should have inquired about his whereabouts.

Charlie is a lot older than the 4-year-old boy but I have to say, I’m not entirely sure that, if he found himself in a locked vehicle, he would know that he should say something, or otherwise communicate, or do something (get out of his seat, go to the door, bang and shout). He might very well just sit and wait.

A year ago, 20-year-old Bryan Nevins died after he was left inside a locked minivan following a trip to Sesame Place amusement park with three other residents of Woods Services, a residential center for individuals with developmental disabilities in Middleton, Pennsylvania. The temperature reached 97 degrees that day (outside the van); Nevins was non-verbal and five hours passed before anyone realized he was missing.

His father, William Nevins of Oceanside, N.Y., has sued both Woods Services and the staff member, ex-employee Stacey Strauss, who was assigned to take care of Bryan Nevins. William Nevins contends that “Woods Services violated and/or disregarded their own protocol with regard to supervision and care of Bryan Nevins”; Strauss is also charged in a civil suit as having a “known history of verbal and written reprimands for using her cell phone while supervising clients and ‘unsatisfactory’ job performance evaluations.” The suit also contends that “the treatment of Bryan Nevins by Woods Services and Stacey Strauss was outrageous and oppressive and showed a reckless indifference.” Strauss is currently serving two to five years in state prison after pleading no contest to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and neglect of a care dependent person.

I like to hope that my own son, finding himself locked in a sweltering car, would do something to get himself out. But I’m not sure that he would. Years and years of education using particular methodologies (Applied Behavior Analysis and Discrete Trial Therapy) have helped him a great deal, but he also tends to be somewhat passive and is highly likely to wait for someone to ask or tell him to do something, rather than taking the initiative. The case of the 4-year-old boy in Jersey City, and the tragic death of Bryan Nevins, remind us harshly that we need to take every possible safety precaution to make sure that no one gets left on the bus. There were only about 8 children on the boy’s schoolbus and there were only 3 other individuals with disabilities in the minivan that Bryan Nevins died in. How hard is it to make sure everyone is accounted for?


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6:46PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Disabled or not NO CHILD deserves to be forgotten on the bus. This is just another example of the total lack of caring that surrounds our children today.

4:55PM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

The bus driver and the aide must been put in jail for long, for being so cruel to the poor boy!!!!!!!

3:54AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

It smacks of criminal negligence. You know the kind, the teachers considered the child an inconvenience. what would have happened if the child had succumbed to teh interior temperature? probably a shrug and a muttered "It ain't my job, man!"

6:35AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

I have a bigger question, why didn't the driver do their sweep? Many bus companies require that drivers make a sweep when they return the bus to the lot. My friend has been a bus driver for 5 years now, and the companies he's worked for have all required sweeps before the driver leaves the bus. If there is a child left on the bus, the driver has to report it, so that the child can be brought home. There is no reason, outside of incompentance, for a child to be left on a bus.

3:03PM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

This proves that we must train our bus drivers that they must check each bus & van at the end of their route EVERY TIME. The transport company must also have a person double check these routes too.

7:58PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

How much energy does it take to actually walk the aisle of one of these buses or vans? Common sense would tell you to check your bus to see if anyone is left on it before you park it. Even public transportation in DC area requires drivers walk the bus and make sure no passengers are left on it. They deserved to be fired and this record should follow them.

6:32PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

The driver who was in charge of this boy doesn't deserve to have a job as a school bus driver.

9:31AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident, of children being left in vehicles. Unattended and many times simply forgotten for hours. The facility and the person who was in charge, as well as the driver should be prosecuted. If the parents did not look for him, they would be next on my list.

8:10AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

This isn't just happening in Amercia. A couple of weeks ago, here in Portugal a 5 yr old child was left on a bus when they came back from a trip to the beach. The child was missing for an hour before the mother arrived to pick up her child. There were 40 children with 2 adults supervising, plus the driver. I have to take it that the 3 adults had not yet learnt to count to 40. How can people in charge of children not count them properly going on and off the bus? What if only 39 had got on at the beach? Would it have been noticed?
I teach dancing lessons to young children, no-one leaves without a adult, no-one is left to wait by themselves.I could never have a lost child on my conscience.

6:59AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

I'm disabled and I went to St Ninian's High School in's meant to be one of the best schools in scotland. And i was forgotten 30 times in school...they had to take me from class to class and carry my bag and a lot of the staff forgot to come for me 5 minutes before the bell rang...i had to phone down to remind them and other times the teacher had to take me to the next class. One day i decided to wait for 3 hours to see if they'd notice i wasnt in class ...5 special needs teachers passed me...didn't bat an eyelid. I felt like lost baggage to be honest. And...they messed up my fifth year when i really needed them...i couldnt take the chemistry exam. So I am not surprised by this story. I think they parents need to hold them to account, i should've sued them for not holding up their own protocols. I'm high functioning...i have a physical disability but these things that they should've done that were not hard....they didn't fulfil my special needs.

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