New York Daily News
Li’l girl’s day of terror
Left dozing on school bus as other kids got off, sez S.I. ma’s suit
A Staten Island mom whose 6-year-old daughter woke up alone and scared in the back of her school bus is now suing the bus company and the city Education Department.
Jenna Carlsen’s young daughter was supposed to be heading to her kindergarten classroom the morning of May 27 — but she fell asleep on the bus ride to the school, according to a lawsuit filed in Staten Island Supreme Court.
All the other kids left for school, and the driver and the matron never properly checked to see if the Island Charter bus was empty, the suit alleges. It wasn’t — Carlsen’s daughter was still dozing inside.
So the bus driver, Steven LaRocca, headed home and pulled into his driveway, nearly a mile away by Ocean Breeze Park, the lawsuit alleges.
About 9:10 a.m. the little girl woke up, confused. She climbed out the backdoor of the bus and found herself on an unfamiliar street, legal papers detail.
Terrified and crying, she walked across the street and found a stranger — a woman who checked her backpack to find a way to contact a parent, the suit claims.
Carlsen didn’t know her daughter didn’t show up at school until the woman called her.
“The child suffered from fear and emotional distress, and was recklessly put in danger of serious physical harm. The child’s mother suffered tremendous distress, fear, pain and suffering when she realized her child did not show up at school and instead was with an unknown stranger,” the lawsuit alleges.
Carlsen is accusing the school system, the bus company, the driver and the matron of negligence.
“It is foreseeable that if a 6-year-old child is left alone onboard a school bus, on a busy city street, and not dropped off as expected to her school, the child would suffer injury; it would endanger the welfare of the child; and would cause pain, suffering and distress to the child and the child’s mother,” the lawsuit alleges.
The distraught mom told NBC New York last year that she was livid when she learned what happened.
“I called the bus driver, cursed him out. Possibly everything that could come out, came out,” Carlsen said. “It takes how long to go up the aisle to make sure nobody’s on the bus?... It could have went a totally different way. She could have got some crazy friggin’ person that would have kidnapped her.”
Police opened an investigation into the incident, but neither the driver nor the matron, identified in the lawsuit as Pranvera Muca, were arrested, cop sources said. The complaint was closed out.
James Clinton, a spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, said that based on the circumstances of the incident, investigators found “no probable sufficient evidence to support an arrest for endangering the welfare of a child.”
Representatives of Island Charter did not return a call seeking comment.
Carlsen told the Daily News that her daughter was in therapy, but she didn’t comment further. Her lawyer declined to comment.
Neither the city Law Department nor the Education Department returned messages seeking comment.