No Abuse Or Neglect In Case Of Child Left On School Bus; Prosecutor Still Reviewing Incident


Interim schools Superintendent Eveny Pagan said no state action would be taken against the district as a result of an incident in January when a 3-year-old special needs student was left on a school bus all day.

A January incident in which a 3-year-old was left on a Franklin Park School bus all day was deemed by a state agency to not be a case of child abuse or neglect, but rather one of “miscommunication.”

But the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and township police are still reviewing the matter for possible criminal charges.

That was the update given of an investigation into the incident – which brought nationwide media attention to the district – by interim schools Superintendent Eveny Pagan at the Feb. 27 Board of Education meeting.

Proper procedures were not followed by the former bus driver, and the toddler was not reported absent, which resulted in the child staying on the bud the entire day, school officials said at the time.

A review of the case by the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency found that “there was no evidence of institutional abuse or neglect at the school level but an issue of miscommunication,” Pagan said in her report. “As such, the division rendered the decision that a case would not be opened against any Franklin staff member related to this investigation.”

An investigation conducted by the school principal, in consultation with the DCPP, came to the same conclusion, Pagan said.

Pagan said the case is still being reviewed by the county prosecutor, who will determine if charges will be filed against the former bus driver. The bus driver was fired immediately after the child was discovered.

Capt. Jack Bennett, a spokesman for the prosecutor, confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing.

Sgt. Philip Rizzo, spokesman for the township police, said the department is “conducting an investigation that will ultimately get forwarded to the Prosecutor’s office for review and the determination of charges, if any.”

Pagan said several steps were taken since the incident, including:

  • A review of the procedures used to verify student absences was completed, and put in writing. “Appropriate action was taken with regard to staff members involved,” she said in her report.
  • Principals at Franklin Park and Hillcrest schools – which receive special needs students in small vans – will assign a staff member to inspect all Pre-K handicapped school buses after they arrive at the schools. “They will enter the bus, walk the bus and inspect the bus for students,” Pagan said in her report. “District elementary principals will be instructed to assign a staff member to visually monitor bus driver inspection of school buses after student arrival.”


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