On March 11th, an 8-year old North Bergen special needs child was left on a school bus for at least 5 hours while it was parked on Amity Street in Jersey City, according to local authorities.
Charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Endangering the Welfare of a Disabled Person have now been filed against Aida Lazala, a 62-year old woman from North Bergen, and Arturo Martinez, a 71-year old man from Jersey City, both of whom were employed by the bus company, Hudson County Transportation.
When Lazala and Martinez appeared in court yesterday to answer to the charges, it was revealed that the boy has Russell-Silver Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by slow growth both before and after birth. The boy apparently fell asleep on the bus on his way to grammar school at the Kennedy School that morning – Lazala and Martinez then drove the bus to the Jersey City lot and left it there without checking it for students. They only found him when they returned to the bus for their afternoon shift, and only reported it to officials at the grammar school when they returned for their afternoon pick-up, authorities said. Meanwhile, the boy’s parents had been notified of his absence.
Alan Manzo, president of Hudson County Transportation, said that Lazala and Martinez were fired as a result of the incident (remarking, however, that there were no prior incidents of this nature). He said that employees are supposed to “check the bus thoroughly” and commented that Lazala and Martinez “obviously didn’t do their job.”
Robert Dandorph, the Superintendent of the North Bergen School System, lambasted Lazala and Martinez. “[W]e are shocked by the inexusable neglect and incompetence of the bus company’s employees,” he was quoted as saying. “It is shocking that adults we trust to protect our children could show such callous disregard for their welfare.”
Thankfully, the boy was otherwise unharmed.
For more information, see the Jersey Journal article entitled, “North Bergen special needs student, 8, left alone on bus 5 hours; 2 charged.”
Depending on the degree of the crimes charges, if convicted, Lazala and Martinez could face upwards of 3-5 years in New Jersey State Prison.