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Mom sues NYC school system after daughter, 6, wakes up alone on school bus, wanders into busy street

A mother is suing the City of New York’s Department of Education after her 6-year-old daughter was left sleeping in the back of a locked school bus parked on an unfamiliar street last year. 

On May 25, 2022, Jenna Carlsen’s 6-year-old daughter fell asleep in the back of a bus before other children disembarked during morning dropoff at their elementary school PS39 in Staten Island, New York. At approximately 9 a.m., Island Charter Inc. school bus driver Steven LaRocca and “matron” school bus attendant Pranvera Muca did not properly check that there were no children left on the bus, according to the lawsuit recently filed on behalf of Carlsen in New York State Supreme Court in Richmond County. 

LaRocca then parked the bus at his home located four miles away from the school, and “once again did not check or did not properly check the bus for sleeping children,” the lawsuit says. 

The kindergartner later woke up alone in the back of the locked bus, exited through the back door and proceeded to cross a busy street, the suit says. 


The 6-year-old asked a stranger for help. According to the woman, the child “was scared and crying, and so she looked in her backpack to find a way to contact the parent.” 

Carlsen “became extremely distressed upon learning that her child was not dropped off at her school and instead left alone on a bus parked on a busy street without any adult in sight and needed to ask a stranger for help,” Carlsen’s attorney, Joanne Olson, wrote. 

“The child suffered from fear and emotional distress and was recklessly put in danger of serious physical harm,” the suit added. “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 suit accuses the school system, the bus company, the driver and bus attendant of negligence.

“It is foreseeable that if a 6-year-old child is left alone on board 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,” it says. 

The mother told WNBC last year the driver’s negligence could have resulted in her daughter being kidnapped. 

“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.”

N.Y. Daily News reported that neither the driver nor the bus matron was arrested. 

Fox News Digital reached out to the New York City Department of Education for comment Tuesday. 

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