COACHELLA, Calif. - Newly released video shows an 11-year-old boy with autism who was left on a school bus in Coachella back in September of 2014. It's a video that Coachella Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams denied existed when KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 requested it at the time.
The boy was forgotten about by everyone, even the bus driver. Fortunately, another driver found the boy before he was potentially left overnight at the school bus yard. You can see the boy responding to the driver in the video, after crying out for help for several minutes.
When we first reported the incident, we received the following statement from Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams:
'He [the other school bus driver] just happened to be walking in the yard, 'Hey why is that kid still on the bus?', said Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams. "And immediately did the right thing and brought the kid in, and made sure the kid was OK, notified the parent and immediately launched an investigation."
The boy attended John Kelley Elementary School. He had been sitting alone for a half an hour.
After the incident, Superintendent Adams said the school district was taking extra measures to ensure no other students were never left behind on a school bus.
"He wasn't asleep, he was awake, but he is one of our students and a special needs student, and so our immediate concern was to make sure he is okay and reach out to the parent," said Adams. "We talked to them about what happened. As a result of that, we immediately placed new procedures in place to ensure that drivers check their bus and we have also ordered additional training for all of our drivers to ensure student safety is the number one priority."
We haven't confirmed if the boy was actually awake as Dr. Adams said, but the boy wasn't easily seen or heard from as the video begins.
The video was leaked to our station by Angel Valentin, a former assistant transportation director for CVUSD.
“When I tried to give the tape to start and investigation they seem hesitant and the conversation that I had between Dr. Adams and my self was not a good one,” Valentin said.
Valentin claims he tried to give the video to CVUSD administration but according to Valentin the district wanted to make sure the video didn’t see the light of day. He says the district eventually put him on unpaid administrative leave for keeping a copy.
“This is not the first time something like this has happened. Different situations but the same outcome. The employee gets fired. So there is a trend here. And I think that is the most important thing that I need to show,” Valentine said.
School district officials tell a much different story. They claim it was Valentin’s job to get the video immediately after the incident and Valentin told his bosses that the camera was broken. Assistant Super Intendant Gregory Fromm said there was never a cover up.
“There was never a denial that a child was left on the bus what happened to the child on the bus the district took fault for it from the beginning. So it makes zero sense that we would not want to have a tape come out because it is only going to help things. The districts top priority is the safety of our students,” Fromm said.
Fromm also says Valentin was put on leave for other issues last August.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to terminate an employee two years past the fact of when the incident happened,” Fromm said.
Valentin said he has an upcoming arbitration hearing with CVUSD. He claims the district owes him money.
But now, KESQ and CBS Local 2 is questioning district officials as to why this video was never made public at the time of the incident, and why we were told it didn't even exist.