Special needs preschooler left alone on Ocean County school bus
POINT PLEASANT — A preschooler was left alone on an otherwise empty school bus nearly two weeks ago, prompting the school district to fire two adult staff members responsible for the vehicle.
Point Pleasant Superintendent of Schools Vincent Smith confirmed Monday that the child was left on the bus Thursday, May 2, and that "the driver and the aide are no longer providing services to the district."
The Asbury Park Press reported the 3-year-old old special needs student remained on the bus as it was left parked at a garage adjacent to Point Pleasant High School, but managed to slip from his seat belt and was seen through a window by a high school student.
The same report named the driver as Richard Cohen and the aide as Marge Bartolomeo, citing the student's mother, Alana Hunt.
Cohen had been approved by the Board of Education in April 2018 as a substitute bus driver as needed with Ocean Road Elementary School, for an hourly rate of $17.
Point Pleasant police said their official report on the incident could not be released as the matter is under an ongoing investigation.
"A student is considered to have been left unattended on the school bus at the end of the route when the driver has left the vicinity of the bus," as written in the Department of Education form for reporting such an incident.
There have been eight such reports around New Jersey school districts so far in 2019 and there were 14 in 2018, according to Mike Yaple of the state Department of Education.
Yaple also said for perspective, "Each school day, approximately 800,000 children in New Jersey are transported to and from school by bus."
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