Children ride bus filled with feces, urine and vomit to Long Island private school, parents say
ROCKAWAY, Queens (PIX11) -– What's the most disgusting thing you could imagine smeared inside a school bus?
One group of schoolchildren were forced to endure a 90-minute ride to their private school in a bus that was defiled with every form of filth. And when the school and parents expressed outrage over the condition of the bus to the owner of the company all they got were denials, and a refusals to refund any of the transportation fees.
Vincent Lopez and his wife chose the Lawrence Woodmere Academy on Long Island for their daughter Veronica hoping for a brighter future. They love the education she gets at her private, $32,000 a year school. But it's getting to and from their Queens' home that's left them horrified.
Vincent describes the morning last month his 7th grader was picked up.
"Feces, vomit, urine, and on all the chairs," Lopez recalled.
Eight children in all were picked up that day. School administrators confirmed teachers boarded the bus to document the filth, capturing photo after photo of vomit, feces, urine, discarded food, even surgical gloves.
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Lopez was outraged at the hazards the children were exposed to.
"Feces on the ground. Vomit on the chair. Urine smelling. And the bus driver saying, 'Get in!' And eight children sitting on one chair because it's filthy."
Veronica still recoils remembering the day she endured the vile ride.
"There was a broom that had poop," Veronica said. "I tried to go to sit in another seat, and it was sticky too. We all had to squish into the back!"
And it wasn't the first time that parents and administrators reached out to RivLab Bus Company in Arverne, demanding a clean bus.
The school even pleading with the company in email: "Our students at LWA once again were transported on a bus that was unsafe and unhealthy for any LIVING PERSON to ride on. We discussed the unclean bus last week. Once again the bus arrived in this unsanitary condition yesterday and again today. The students were crying when they arrived. The families are asking for a full refund for the remainder of the school year. "
Lopez was appalled by RivLab's lack of concern for his daughter's health and safety.
"He never replied to the parents. Only to the school. He just said he's not giving anything back."
PIX11 News reached out to hear directly from RivLab, and went to their bus depot in the Rockaways. Dan Rivelas, was not only unapologetic, he denied the bus was his, refused to give any money back, and insisted he was giving kids a safe ride to school.
"The children have been transported safely," Rivelas said after looking at the pictures of the filth on his bus.
When we pointed out that it's not safe for children to be exposed to excrement, Rivelas stood his ground asking and answering his own question. "Well, what's your definition of safe? My definition is getting them to and from school safely and we have an excellent safety reputation."
Despite the pictures and emails, Rivelas denied the bus even belonged to Rivlab and denied ever having heard about the filthy problem. After taking a few minutes behind closed doors to examine the pictures, he announced he spoke to the driver, and blamed the toilet-like conditions on the children who ride the bus, and said it's the driver's job to clean it up each day. He still refused to compensate parents in any way.
Lawrence Woodmere Academy declined an on-camera interview, but headmaster Alan Bernstein said in a statement, they "were appalled at the horrible condition. They were unapologetic and had no explanation that we found credible... (we) will no longer be doing business with Rivlab."
RivLab is subjected to two announced annual inspections by the State Department of Transportation. The number of buses listed as out of service and types of violations they earn are not out of industry norm. But since the school is a private school, and the bus is paid for directly by parents and not overseen by a County Transportation Department, there seems to be no way to hold RivLab accountable for its filthy practices.
The State Department of Transportation said it's not set up to take parent complaints. A worker there suggested calling police. 311 passed on the problem.
New York City and Nassau County health departments said it wasn't something they would handle either, leaving Veronica and her fellow students counting the days 'til the end of school and their busing nightmare.