School Bus Driver, Aide Charged With Sexual Abuse
By: NY1 News
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Police are investigating two separate sexual abuse incidents involving young children on Staten Island.
School bus driver Rodolfo Hernandez, 51, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assault of a 3-year-old preschooler in special education.
The child attends the Little Lamb Preschool in Mariners Harbor, which caters to children with disabilities.
Sources say the girl, who has difficulty communicating, was able to tell her mother about the assault, after she asked why her underwear was disheveled.
The incident has employees at the special needs school pointing fingers at the Department of Education, because they say the DOE is in charge of school bus drivers.
It's unclear why the matron was on the bus at the time of the assault. Sources say she lived along the bus route, and could face charges, as well.
"A bus driver is on the bus and a matron. The bus driver drives the bus; the matron takes care of the children in the back and helps get them buckled in," said Little Lamb Preschool director Miriam Lowenthal. "I would never put a child on a bus that didn't have a matron. Nobody here would."
Parents of other preschoolers at the center say they fear for their children's safety.
"I'm disgusted by it. I mean, my son is two and a half. I don't put him on the bus, but I had been considering to do so," said Toni Mancuso, whose son attends the preschool. "My question is, why wasn't there an aide on the bus? Why was this bus driver alone with the 3-year-old little girl? That's my concern."
"It's shocking," said parent Marcus Timmons. "Surprising that this happened."
Officials say they matched Hernandez's DNA to DNA left on the child's underwear.
Meanwhile, teacher's aide Christopher Gordon, 23, was also arraigned Friday on charges of having inappropriate contact with a five-year-old girl at Oakdale Academy in Willowbrook.
The alleged victim told her grandmother Wednesday that the aide had taken her into a bathroom and assaulted her.
Gordon is being held on $100,000 bail on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He was immediately fired.
"Everybody seemed to like him — children, parents, staff alike — so we all found this to be absolutely amazing," said Oakdale Academy director Debbie Wallach. "But we don't bother in wasting our time if something has been alleged. We have to immediately act upon it, because there are children involved."
Gordon and Hernandez are both due back in court March 12th.