A bus driver was charged with two counts of risk of injury to children after two New Haven Public Schools children with special needs were found in an unattended bus on Sept. 6.
The bus driver, Marilena Monroy, 53, of New Haven told the police she took responsibility for the incident but that she was unaware at the time that there were children still on the bus. Monroy works for the bus company First Student, which services New Haven schools. Monroy said she drove home after she believed all the students had been dropped off at their homes, New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said in a press release.
According to the time stamp on the bus camera system, Monroy parked at 11:44 a.m., meaning that the children, Daniel Bermudez, a 16-year-old boy with autism, and a 17-year-old girl who is nonverbal and suffers from multiple health disorders, were in the bus for at least a half hour, Hartman wrote.
Bermudez texted his mother to say that he and another student were locked in the school bus after the driver left them there, Hartman said. According to WTNH News 8, Bermudez texted, “Hey mom I have a problem… I’m on the bus and the bus driver just left and went into a house… I tried to get her to notice me but I wasn’t loud enough.”
Officers were summoned to 674 Woodward Ave. to check on the welfare of the two unattended children following a call dispatched by Bermudez’s mother at 12:15 p.m., Hartman wrote. The boy’s mother was able to track his location on his phone.
Officers Francisco Ortiz and Eric Avilles opened the bus door and found the children, who were reported to be alert. The bus wasn’t running and had tinted windows, which were all closed. The only fresh air came from a slightly opened driver’s window, the initial police report said.
In his press release, Hartman outlined the day’s weather report: 90 degrees accompanied by a heat advisory due to high humidity.
Officer Ortiz located the student pickup list and identified the girl who is nonverbal by process of elimination. Officer Avilles drove the students home, found the girl’s father and brought him back to the bus.
Despite no obvious signs of physical injury to either student, EMTs were summoned to the scene to check the children for any sign of harm. The female child was later taken to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital to be further evaluated. She was released after being checked out, Hartman wrote.
Typhanie Jackson, New Haven Public Schools director of student services, referred the News to a statement released online by Superintendent for New Haven Public Schools Carol Birks, in which she described the incident as an “unacceptable breach” of protocol.
Birks has personally visited the affected families to express her concern for the students and to personally confirm their safety and well-being. And in her statement, she wrote that she expects First Student, the bus company involved, to honor its contractual duty and obligation to uphold the safety procedures that protect New Haven students.
William Clark, chief operating officer of New Haven Public Schools, said he has nothing to add to Birks’ statement.
The incident was reported to the State Department of Children and Families, Hartman said.
Gary Kleeblatt, communications director at Connecticut Department of Children and Families, wrote to the News that, under Connecticut law, the department is not allowed to share child protection records, which include reports of abuse and neglect made to the Careline or information reflecting actions taken as a result.
Officials from the New Haven Board of Education have said there were several clear violations of protocol, committed by the driver, according to Hartman’s press release. First Student has been cooperating with the Board of Education investigation into this matter, Hartman said.
Sammy Westfall | firstname.lastname@example.org