Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bus driver who verbally abused boy with autism in 2005 is back on the job on Staten Island

From the Staten Island Advance:

A verbally abusive bus driver, who got bounced after spewing curses at a Staten Island autistic boy in 2005, is back on the road driving two Staten Island special needs children to a private school in Brooklyn.

The Department of Education -- breaking its promise to keep Robert Fischetti away from kids -- put Fischetti back behind the wheel of an Atlantic Express bus as a result of a special arrangement brokered by a former DOE pupil transportation official, even though the official did not have the authority to reinstate him, a source said.

Still, the reinstatement of Fischetti is legally binding, said DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte March 24. Fischetti's taunting and teasing of little P.J. Rossi, (pictured) then an 8-year-old at PS 37 in Great Kills, led to a 2007 state law with disabled kids in mind. Fischetti called P.J. names, offered him sweets that didn't exist and said, "Good one!" after bus matron Connie Clark called P.J. a "little dog" for banging his head repeatedly against a seat.

The incident drew such outrage that the DOE promised to ban Fischetti for life from driving New York City kids to and from school, and prompted state legislators to mandate upgrades in training for school bus drivers and matrons who transport special needs kids.

Ms. Forte said Fischetti will remain on the road, driving for DOE under a contractual arrangement with Atlantic Express, because "we see no reason for him not to."

"We have talked to the families of the children he is driving and they are happy with his service," said Ms. Forte. She could not say when or where those conversations occurred.

Ms. Forte said she could not release the names, ages, genders or communities of the two Island youngsters now under Fischetti's care as they are transported along borough streets, over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and into Brooklyn. Nor could she immediately name the private school they attend.

"Mr. Fischetti's decertification was reduced to a 180-day unpaid suspension as per a litigation settlement," said Ms. Forte. "Since he began driving again, his record has been clean ... We have no reason to take further action at this time."