School buses that carry kids with special needs must have working air conditioning, but the public advocate says, too often, they don't. She spoke at City Hall Friday, and she was joined by a girl with autism who says she got caught on an overheated bus. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Ahjaah Jewett, a 13-year-old with autism, took out her cellphone earlier this week and called 911 from inside a yellow school bus.
"My tummy started hurting. My head felt funny," she said. "I tried to tell the matron that I thought that I was going to throw up, but no one understood me.
She said it was the third day the bus was too hot, and the matron, who's in charge of helping the special needs students, did not speak English.
"Unfortunately, the matron could only speak Spanish, and English is the only language I can speak," Ahjaah said.
Ahjaah wound up in the emergency room. After picking her up, her mother contacted some parent advocacy groups. That's how Ahjaah ended up telling her story on the steps of City Hall Friday morning, alongside Public Advocate Letitia James, who is demanding working air conditioning on all buses transporting students with disabilities.
"I thought this never would have happened, that they would have given us AC in the first place," Ahjaah said.
Actually, by law, students with disabilities have to have air conditioning on their school buses whenever the outside temperature is over 70 degrees.
The Department of Education said it moves right away to address any complaint related to safety. Officials said they want to make air conditioning mandatory in all future school bus contracts, not just those for special needs kids.
Ahjaah's mother said the DOE was responsive after the 911 call, but Ahjaah worries about other students, many of whom can't speak.
"The other kids, they're not verbal like I am," she said. "I feel like I'm the only kid on the bus who can speak."
Her audience Friday included the mayor's son, Dante de Blasio, who came over to say hi.
The public advocate said she's working with the administration, but if the problem isn't fixed quickly and permanently, there's a group of parents willing to sue, and she's going to back them up.