Special needs children left 'drenched in sweat' and 'loopy' after made to travel for hours in school buses with broken air conditioners
New York Department of Education is looking into allegations that buses they chartered are running in the scorching heat with non-functioning air conditioners.
STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK: Parents of special needs children all over the borough of Staten Island are incensed after they found that the bus company hired to transport the kids to and from school had non-functioning air conditioners despite the scorching heat.
Lauren Reinero's attention was brought to the problem after her three-year-old son, Louis, who attends a pre-school for children with autism and special needs got off the bus on the second day of summer school soaked from head to toe, according to the New York Post.
"He was drenched in sweat," she said, adding that his cheeks were red. "He looked like he was drugged — out of it."
The city's Department of Education (DOE), which contracts the bus companies that transport the children, is legally required to ensure that all the buses for special-needs kids have air conditioners in them.
Despite such rules, Louis traveled in a bus that not only had no AC but also had all its windows closed shut for the entirety of his one hour and five-minute ride home.
"It was 90 degrees outside," Reinero said. "I was livid."
She was not the only mother whose child had to suffer through the hellish experience either.
Danielle Napoli, also of Staten Island, said her three-year-old son Matteo, who has cerebral palsy, came home after a 90-minute ride from the Gingerbread Learning Center soaking wet and "a little loopy."
"The bus has no air conditioning working," she complained. "My son gets off every day like he just got out of the pool. Soaked in sweat! So so hot. he’s out of it — fallen asleep."
Both children rode on buses run by Island Charter, which reportedly runs 55 summer routes for the DOE.
While Island Charter did not offer any answer to the controversy, the DOE said they would be in big trouble with the city if the problem wasn't rectified soon.
"Students deserve a safe and comfortable ride to school, and both of these incidents were immediately addressed this week," said spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
She said the DOE's Office of Pupil Transportation had started using new "temperature guns" devices in June for the bus vendors to report any problems during the summer but did not give any data on inspections or violations.
The New York Post reported that the DOE had received 4,271 complaint calls so far this summer, though it was unclear how many were related to non-working or non-existent ACs.