City officials are investigating an allegation that teachers at a Coney Island school last week left an 8-year-old physically disabled student alone on a school bus after he fell asleep, and failed to inform the boy’s mother that he was missing, a spokeswoman at the Department of Education confirmed.
The boy’s mom said the incident amounted to a breakdown in her trust in the city’s schools and its employees who are charged with keeping kids safe.
“They failed my son, and they failed me, because I dropped my son off in their hands to make sure he’s safe,” said Coney Island resident Jennifer Smith. “For them to leave my son behind, it has changed my whole feelings towards how the school system is run.”
Smith said the incident occurred April 4 when her son, Blake Everett — who she said has a leg length discrepancy that impairs his mobility and requires him to be accompanied by an aide at all times — joined his classmates from PS 329 on a field trip to the Cobble Hill Theater.
But Everett’s aide rode back to the learning house on a separate bus, according to Smith, who added that her son fell asleep and slipped under a bus seat by the time the group returned to the school at some point between 1:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
When Everett woke up a few minutes later, the bus was parked and empty except for the driver, according to Smith, who said that her scared student didn’t know where he was. The bus driver then contacted the school at around 2:10 p.m., and a teacher trekked to the bus and rode back to the school with the boy, according to Smith.
The worried mother finally spoke to the youngster by phone at around 2:30 p.m., when she called the school to inquire about where he was after a friend with a contact in the school had texted Smith to tell her that her son was missing, she said, adding that officials never contacted her to tell her what had happened.
The friend who contacted Smith, Toya Boyd, confirmed details of Smith’s account of the incident.
Department of Education spokeswoman Miranda Barbot confirmed in a statement that honchos were investigating the incident, and that they would discipline school officials if necessary.
“Safety always comes first, and this serious allegation was reported and is under investigation,” Barbot said. “We will take any necessary follow-up action.”
Smith claimed a rep from the superintendent’s office of the local District 21 told her that officials were specifically investigating a teacher at the school and one of the its two assistant principals — both of whom were allegedly on the field trip — but Barbot said she could not reveal who specifically was under investigation.
Barbot did not reply to multiple inquiries seeking more information on the department’s protocol for handling incidents of missing students.
Smith said she transferred Everett and his twin brother, Bryce, out of the school and into nearby PS 188 following the incident. But she said that she won’t feel at peace until there’s a change of leadership at PS 329, and blasted the school’s honchos for failing to make sure Everett’s aide was by his side at all times on the trip and failing to tell her what had happened when they discovered he was missing.
“I don’t think they should be allowed to be watching over children — it seemed like they didn’t take it seriously,” Smith said. “It’s like it was being swept underneath the rug, like they didn’t want me to know.”