Lakewood school accusations cause friction: Prosecutor says district following law
LAKEWOOD — Investigators in Ocean County have found no evidence that school buses have been transporting children to schools or that schools have remained open in violation of a state pandemic order.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said on Tuesday that "several citizen complaints" were received about the buses and schools but the complaints were unfounded.
Last week, a Lakewood public school bus was stopped in Toms River by police who said they received a report about buses letting children off a bus.
Lakewood has been using buses to deliver breakfast and lunch to the homes of children on the free-and-reduced lunch program. The state said districts had to develop ways to continue administering the nutrition program.
Lakewood school district attorney Michael Inzulbuch said he reviewed security footage from two buses and spoke to the drivers, learning that the drivers had brought their own children along for the ride.
Billhimer said Tuesday that his office's investigation determined that 85 buses from four bus companies — Jay’s Bus Service, Masoras Avos Bus Service, Semon Tov Bus Service and Harnett Bus Service — are being used to deliver food to various residences in Lakewood, Toms River, Brick and Jackson. Students were not being taken to or from schools. Billhimer did not specify how many complaints were received.
Some of the drivers brought their children on their buses to help with the deliveries, according to Billhimer.
The Lakewood Board of Education had requested that the state Attorney General's office investigate why Toms River police had stopped the bus.
Lakewood is home to a large Jewish community, which has faced backlash on social media, including the unfounded accusations that schools secretly remain open.
Inzulbuch believes that harassment hasn't been limited to just online comments.
He said an off-duty bus driver called him on Monday to say that his personal minivan was being followed by two vehicles.
"He called me, what I perceived to be scared and concerned, and asked 'what should I do,'" Inzelbuch said, adding that he directed the driver to come to Inzelbuch's home.
Inzelbuch said he met the man, who was wearing garb associated with Orthodox Jewish men, outside his home and watched the dark SUV and white Jeep go by his home.
A woman driving the Jeep, which police said was registered to Ocean County's government, gave him a middle finger, Inzelbuch said.
"OK, that's her First Amendment right," he added.
Inzelbuch said he texted pictures of the vehicles to schools Superintendent Laura Winters and a Lakewood police lieutenant, who said that the vehicles were not party of any investigation by the department.
Winters also sent an email to Lakewood police asking about the vehicle at Inzelbuch's request.
Inzelbuch provided New Jersey 101.5 with a copy of the response from Lakewood police Chief Greg Meyer who said that the car was "from the county."
"We are not involved in any enforcement actions as of this time with them," Meyer said in his email.
Ocean County spokeswoman Donna Flynn said she could not determine which county office the vehicle was assigned to.
Lakewood police did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday morning.