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Public Advocate Alleges In Lawsuit Some NYC Special Ed Buses Are Dangerously Hot

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Sweltering school buses carrying disabled students have led to a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education.

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, two families and
city Public Advocate Letitia James filed the lawsuit after repeated complaints to the DOE and school bus companies.

The lawsuit demands that private contractors be fined if they don't follow the air-conditioning rules, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

Public Advocate Alleges In Lawsuit Some NYC Special Ed Buses Are Dangerously Hot

Catherine Simone is fed up about the situation.

"My son has not had AC since May!" Simone said. "It is so hot, and they're not allowed to have water on the bus. Enough is enough!"

Simone's son is 10 years old, autistic, and in school all summer long. He is just one of 27,000 disabled students who ride the buses throughout the summer – many of them without air conditioning.

"When he got off the bus, his shirt was literally drenched," Simone said. "His face was red, he was sweaty, and he was having trouble breathing."

Some of the students have a hard time communicating that they're uncomfortable.

And buses without air conditioning are breaking the law. According to New York City code, "any bus… transporting a child with a disability to and from a school in the city… shall be air-conditioned when the ambient outside temperature exceeds seventy degrees Fahrenheit."

Public Advocate's Lawsuit Alleges NYC Special Ed Buses Are Too Hot

City law imposes fines on bus companies that do not comply, but James said the city is not imposing them. She filed the lawsuit to get action.

"I need DOE to step up and impose fines and penalties on these providers," James said. "Part of this is mechanical, and part of this is, unfortunately, just turning a blind eye."

The school buses transport the disabled students year-round, even in the height of the summer. Parents said they have done their own readings, and the temperatures in the buses can get up to 91 sweltering degrees, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported.

"These children are on these buses for hours, twice a day," James said.

The Department of Education said 86 percent of its buses have air conditioning, and it is working to get all in compliance.

But students also said a change is needed.

"No kid should have to call 911 because their school bus is too hot," said Ahjaah Jewett, 15. "I still remember the day I did that."

Jewett made the frantic call last summer when she was about to overheat.

This year, her bus got air conditioning, but she said many of her classmates are not as fortunate.

The Department of Education stressed that it standard is that every child whose individual education plan requires air conditioning must receive it. The department said it will correct any problems parents bring to their attention.

James had threatened legal action after a news conference last summer with students who needed medical attention after a bus ride.

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