NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They were hired to protect, but instead were arrested for neglect.
A bus driver and matron face charges for allegedly leaving a special education student on a school bus for five hours in the cold.
CBS 2’s Christine Sloan spoke exclusively Friday with the mother whose child was left behind.
Imagine being a special needs student and finding yourself trapped on a school bus for hours with no one to help you. It happened to an 11-year-old boy earlier this week in Manhattan. On March 11, a similar incident happened in northern New Jersey.
“I prayed … I talked to my heavenly father,” Anthony Suarez said.
That is what this special needs student said he did as he sat trapped for five hours inside a Hudson County Transport school bus parked in the company’s lot in Jersey City.
Eight-year-old Suarez, who suffers from a genetic disorder that prevents him from thriving, was on the bus heading to his school in North Bergen when he fell asleep on the back bench.
“And then I woke up I was alone in the bus,” Suarez said, adding when asked if he was scared, “A little.”
Suarez said he hid because he was afraid people outside would hurt him.
“You put your child on the bus you expect to see him back,” mother Yadira Siguencia said.
Police said the little boy found himself stranded because the 71-year-old bus driver, identified as Arturo Martinez, and 62-year-old aide Aida Lazala didn’t check for students on the bus when they left it in the lot after their morning shift.
When they finally returned in the afternoon they noticed the 8-year-old inside the bus and called the school. Suarez’s mother said she had no idea he hadn’t been dropped off.
“I am mixed emotions. I am angry. I’m happy that he is OK,” Siguencia said. “I don’t know, you know, how this has affected him emotionally.”
Martinez and Lazala have been charged with endangering the welfare of a special needs child.
CBS 2’s Sloan tried to get comment from Martinez, but he and his son told us they couldn’t talk because of a family emergency.
The owner of Hudson County Transport, which is contracted by the North Bergen School District, did not immediately return CBS 2’s call, and when Sloan stopped by a woman identifying herself as a receptionist told us he wasn’t in.
The receptionist described Martinez and Lazala as good people.
Suarez’ mother said she’s just happy her son is safe. While she wouldn’t talk directly about the bus company, she said letting the employees go is not enough.
“I don’t want this to happen to any little boy, any child, or [for] any parent [to] feel the desperation,” she said.
The North Bergen School District is demanding a thorough investigation of this company’s procedures. The district superintendent said he was shocked by the inexcusable neglect and incompetence of the bus company’s two employees.
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