Posted at: 06/11/2013 3:28 AM
Updated at: 06/11/2013 7:30 PM
Their job is to protect and watch children while they ride the bus to and from school. But a school bus monitor, accused of violating that trust and sexually abusing a child, was back in court Tuesday.
This story may make you think twice before putting your children on the bus in the morning and that's why News10NBC is taking those concerns back to the bus company that hired 61 year-old Robert Hoff of Rochester.
Hoff pleaded not guilty to felony sex abuse charges Tuesday morning.
Hoff worked for Monroe Transportation. Police say the victim is a nine year-old girl and they described her as severely autistic, handicapped and unable to speak.
Investigators say the bus driver saw Hoff grope the child while sitting next to her on the bus.
"Obviously whenever you have allegations such as these involving a minor child, the allegations are very serious. Our office takes them very serious and like I said before, it's an ongoing investigation,” said Greg Colavecchia, Assistant District Attorney.
Monroe Transportation says Hoff did undergo a background check before he was hired.
Tuesday night I-Team 10 took a closer look at what systems are in place to protect kids while on the school bus.
The bus company says it did all the proper background checks on Hoff and found nothing to prevent him from being hired. But since Hoff's arrest, has Monroe Transportation reexamed its policies and procedures?
The company serves more than 1,600 special needs students each day and parents want to be reassured that their child will be in safe hands. So News10NBC went back to Monroe Vice President David Bonacchi for answers.
"We try to put the very best people on our buses that we can, but when you're dealing with human beings, you just never know what someone's gong to do or not do,” said Bonacchi.
“What about something like cameras on the buses. Is that something you've explored as a potential deterrent?” asked I-Team 10 Investigator Brett Davidsen.
"To be perfectly honest with you, I worked at RTS prior and I was there when we started putting cameras on the buses and I personally think cameras on the buses are something that really, at this point in time, probably all school buses should have. It keeps the honest, honest,” said Bonacchi.
“Why don't you have them?” asked Davidsen.
"Again, it's something the City School District has never pursued. It's a very costly investment,” said Bonacchi.
“These are the most vulnerable of students. What do you say to other parents of kids on these buses to assure them that their children will be safe?” asked Davidsen.
"Again, I guess you look at the history or track record of our company and the people we've hired here. We have some of the very best people working at Monroe School Transportation,” said Bonacchi. “So I can say to the parents, you know what, this was an isolated incident and we're making sure this never happens again."
“How do you make sure it doesn't happen again?” asked Davidsen.
"You can never make sure it doesn't happen again, because we have the human being factor. But again, we're going to be working towards some greater in-service training in August. We're going to be having discussions with the city about how we can maybe put some new equipment on vehicles that may help, but at the end, no matter whether we have cameras or GPS's or safety officers following buses or whatever it may be, no one can ever guarantee 100-percent that a human being isn't going to do something that's wrong,” said Bonacchi.
News10NBC reached out to the City School District about the issue of installing cameras on Monroe buses. They say they are checking into it. News10NBC will let you know when we get an answer.
News10NBC also asked Bonacchi about the fact that Hoff was sitting in the same seat with the girl and whether that was protocol. He says each child is cared for differently based on their needs, but he also says it may not have been necessary for him to be in such close proximity.