With reports of a second child being molested on board a Buffalo Public School bus, politicians are again calling for changes, but this time vowing action.
The mother of a 6-year-old boy with emotional and behavioral disabilities is coming forward, claiming her son was sexually molested by a boy twice his age while on a school bus and that her concerns were ignored and even covered up by the district. This was first reported by the Buffalo News.
The mother says her son came home from Our Lady of Black Rock School on December 2, 2015 with bleeding wounds on his hand and spit on his coat. Her son told her that a boy in sixth grade had performed a sexual act on him and then forced him to perform a sexual act.
But the story starts the month before, when the mother says she reported her son was being bullied. According to the mother, she called the principal at least three times prior to this but never received a response to her complaints, and that she tried to speak with the bus driver but the bus driver threatened to call police.
After this incident, the mother took further action. She reported it to the bus company, the school and police. The police recommended going to the school and the school secretary said she would report the incident to the principal. Again, the mother says she tried to talk to the bus driver, but the bus driver again threatened to call police.
Five days later, on December 8, the mother says her son’s principal was in a meeting with other school officials, after which the principal told her the incident never happened, that she had reviewed the video from the bus and it did not match her son’s story. Further, the mother says the principal told her she had interviewed other students and those students reported her son had hurt himself.
With that, the mother took additional steps, calling Child Protective Services and the Catholic Diocese. A woman from the Diocese returned the mother’s call three days later and said the principal had never seen the video and that there was no obligation to report the incident because it happened on the bus and not at school.
Despite this, on December 30, the mother says she received a letter from the principal claiming the video footage could not be recovered. The letter repeated that interviews did not corroborate her son’s story, that the bus driver reported nothing “out of the ordinary,” and that he was being kicked out of school because the school could not meet her son’s “educational, social and emotional needs.”
About a week later, the mother says she sent a letter to the principal asking to meet with her, but that request was denied and the principal said she had been directed by her supervisors to not meet with her or discuss the matter further.
Two days after that, the mother filed a complaint against Our Lady of Black Rock and the Buffalo Public School District for alleged violations of the American with Disability Act. While the boy attended a Catholic school at the time, the Buffalo Public School District was responsible for his transportation.
But in the meantime, while this back and forth was going on, police had been conducting their own investigation. On January 15, a month after the investigation began, police interviewed her son and she says told they her they had seen the video and that it matched what her son had told her happened.
A Buffalo Police spokesperson was unable to verify the existence of that video to 7 Eyewitness News. The Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent said that is something the district is looking into.
This is the second report of sexual abuse on a school bus. The first was reported in late November 2015 by the Buffalo News. The newspaper says a 9-year-old boy in third grade was attacked, suffering bruises all over his body and a possible broken nose, and was possibly forced to a commit a sexual act on one of his two fifth-grade attackers.
Just like in this new alleged attack, there was no bus aide on board.
After that initial attack, South District Councilman Chris Scanlon filed a resolution with the Common Council to have bus aides but on all school buses. Now he’s saying he will be fighting to have services restored and this battle may come to a head during budget season.
“The standards set by Buffalo Public Schools would not be good enough for my child and if they’re not good enough for my child, they’re not good enough for any child anywhere,” he said. “A bus driver is not a bus aide and he shouldn’t have to function as one.”
Sam Radford, with the District Parent Coordinating Council said, "It's very upsetting -- the fact that we won't use common sense to protect these children." Radford, who has been in touch with the child's mother, said that the number of bus aides decreased several years ago under a different administration.
According to Buffalo Public School District officials, about two-thirds of buses have aides on them, although Radford estimates that number to be much lower. The district blamed a high turnover of bus aides on the reason not more positions have been filled.
Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said, "We have to work closely with a number of entities to hire qualified people for the bus aide role. This is not just about putting bodies in that role, and it's very, very difficult."
In a statement released after the mother came forward, the Diocese said school officials reported the incident to the Buffalo Public School District and that the Diocese will be undertaking its own investigation.
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