The little boy who claimed to be sexually molested by a student nearly twice his age while on a Buffalo school bus with no bus aide late last year was telling the truth all along, new video evidence shows.
While his claims had been dismissed based on initial reviews of footage from the bus camera, investigators have recovered additional video from the bus that captured the 6-year-old being sexually abused by the older student during the ride from their Catholic school on the West Side, the boy’s mother told The Buffalo News.
Three separate sources familiar with the investigation corroborated this new development in the case.
In fact, video showed the sexual abuse took place on the bus on more than one occasion, the mother said.
“He was sexually assaulted on that bus not one time, but five times,” the mother said.
The new development comes after officials with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and the Buffalo Public Schools – which provides transportation for city students attending diocesan schools – said in February that footage from the bus refuted the young boy’s claim.
That was true. Authorities reviewed video from early December when the boy’s mother first alleged the abuse occurred. That footage showed nothing to substantiate accusations that he was forced to perform a sexual act on the 11-year-old or that the older boy performed a sexual act on him.
The 6-year-old, however, told his mother he had been bullied on the bus for weeks, so police reviewed footage going back a month before the alleged incident. That’s when they found video to validate the boy’s claim.
“I know my son wasn’t a liar,” the mother said, “but everyone made it seem like my son was a liar.”
The mother credits a Buffalo police detective who continued the investigation and searched through the video footage.
He called the mother in March to tell her the boy’s story was true.
“The good news is I found the tape,” she said the detective told her. “The bad news is that it happened. I want you to get your son in counseling ASAP.”
Officials from the Buffalo Public Schools, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and First Student – the district’s transportation provider – this week said only that they are aware of the revived allegations and are cooperating with authorities in the on-going investigation.
Meanwhile, the mother of the victim said the 11-year-old has been charged and his case has been sent to Erie County Family Court.
Authorities would not confirm that. “I would not be able to confirm or deny the existence of any proceeding in Family Court because of the confidential nature of the proceedings,” said Assistant Erie County Attorney Kelly Brinkworth.
The victim’s mother said she has retained civil rights attorney Steven M. Cohen to represent her. Cohen filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the video, but was denied.
The mother, who is frustrated and angry, said she doesn’t know exactly what’s on the video, but wants it released to verify the facts so her son’s counselors can deal with the trauma he’s been through.
She also wants her son’s name cleared. Since the allegations became public, the boy has been portrayed as a problem child and a liar, she said, and was forced to change schools.
A Buffalo parent group echoed those sentiments.
“If the district knew about this, why wouldn’t they let the public know and say what they’re doing about it?” said Samuel L. Radford III, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. “It’s clearly something that parents are going to be concerned about.”
This case came on the heels of a separate, but similar incident in late November in which a 9-year-old third-grader from a South Buffalo elementary school reportedly was physically assaulted and possibly forced to commit a sexual act on one of his two fifth-grade attackers while on a bus that also was without an aide.
Police have not disclosed the outcome of that investigation.
The allegations in this most recent case first became public in January after the parent group filed a complaint on behalf of the mother asking the federal government to step in and require aides on all school buses in the City of Buffalo. They say that drivers cannot maintain order on the buses while also paying attention to the road.
The school district had a full complement of bus aides before hundreds of those positions were cut in two consecutive budgets starting in 2013.
Meanwhile, the 6-year-old – a special-education student – was removed from the Catholic school, Our Lady of Black Rock, in the midst of all this, because administrators said the school didn’t have the necessary support to educate him. The boy is now at a Buffalo public school, his mother said.
“He loves it, but he has his ups and downs,” the mother said. “This will probably stick with him for the rest of his life. This doesn’t go away.”