NYC sued for failing to provide air conditioned buses

Backs of several school buses in a row
No Air Conditioning

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James sued the city Department of Education [PDF] in state court August 19, on behalf of special education students in so-called District 75 schools being deprived of air conditioned buses in the sweltering summer heat.

“By failing to protect our most vulnerable children, DOE is violating the law and our moral conscience,” Public Advocate James said in a news release. “Unlike other school districts, District 75 provides for children with disabilities who often cannot voice their anguish while enduring unusually long bus rides during the hottest months of the year.
“DOE has repeatedly failed to take meaningful action, and it’s up to us to fight for the health and safety of these children.”
About 27,000 students citywide are enrolled in District 75 schools, which are designed for students with autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual and mental health-related disabilities. Unlike the rest of the city’s student population, District 75 students attended school year round.

The New York City Administrative Code states that school buses providing transportation for students with disabilities must be equipped with air conditioning. Most of the buses are contracted out to private companies.

Public Advocate James first held a press conference warning the DOE of potential violations in September 2014. Subsequent investigations of non-air conditioned buses showed temperatures rising as high as 91 degrees in the vehicles.

“The conditions on District 75 school buses are completely unacceptable and in blatant violation of the law,” said Attorney David B. Rankin of Rankin & Taylor, which is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in the news release. “This problem has been repeatedly documented, and repeatedly ignored. We are hopeful that the court will take swift action to bring relief to these children.”

The DOE’s data shows that about 2,400, or about 86 percent, of the 2,800 District 75 buses have air conditioning, according to Capital New York.

In addition to alleging violations of the City Code, the lawsuit alleges that the city’s actions constitute disability discrimination under the the New York City Human Rights Law. It was filed in the Supreme Court of State of New York, County of New York.

You can get more details about conditions for students with disabilities on District 75 buses from CBS New York’s news story.