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Lawsuit makes additional claims in sexual assault on Buffalo school bus

The young boy who was sexually molested by an older student while on a Buffalo school bus in 2015 was sitting immediately behind the bus driver when it happened, according to a lawsuit filed by the boy's mother.

The molestation happened not once, but at least five times on the bus over the course of eight days, according to the lawsuit.

And on one of those occasions there also was an aide on the school bus.

Those are some of the new accusations that emerged from a lawsuit filed by the boy's mother. The suit was filed against First Student Inc., the transportation provider; the Buffalo Public Schools, which contracts with First Student to provide busing to both public and private schools; and the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and Our Lady of Black Rock School, where both boys attended.

Little has been said publicly about the case for months because lawyers had a confidentiality agreement in place while they tried to mediate a settlement, but talks broke down and attorneys  for the boy's mother filed a lawsuit in February. The Buffalo News is not naming the mother in order to protect the privacy of the child.

Court papers allege:

  • The boy, who was 6 at the time, was sexually assaulted by the 11-year-old at least five times while on the bus between Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 in 2015. On one occasion, the younger boy was forced to put  his hands down the older boy's pants. The other four times, the younger boy was forced to perform a sexual act on the older boy.
  • Each incident happened on the afternoon bus ride home.
  • Each time, the two boys were seated together in the seat "immediately behind" the bus driver.
  • No aide was on the bus during four of the five occasions.
  • There was an an aide on the Nov. 16 ride home, but she was sitting in the back of the bus.

The mother went public with her son's claims in January 2016, which raised widespread concerns in the community and spurred calls for more bus aides. Officials with the Diocese of Buffalo and the Buffalo school district initially said video footage from the bus refuted the young boy's claims, but police investigators dug deeper and found the video from November 2015 to substantiate the allegations.

Now, it appears the question in the case isn't if the boy was abused, but rather who was negligent.

Lawlor F. Quinlan III, the attorney representing the Diocese of Buffalo and Our Lady of Black Rock, recently filed a motion to have his clients dismissed from the lawsuit. The diocese is not legally liable for the school, he argued in court papers, while the school and administration have no legal supervision of the students once they're on the bus.

The motion was supposed to have been argued Monday before State Supreme Court Justice Tracy Bannister, but the session was adjourned.

Meanwhile, Steven M. Cohen, attorney for the boy and his mother, argued in court papers that there is plenty of blame to go around. He named First Student. the diocese and the Buffalo Public Schools for negligent hiring, training and supervision, as well as administrators at the Catholic school on the West Side, who called the little boy a liar, forced him to apologize to his assailant and removed him from the school, according to court documents.

The lawsuit also suggests that other instances of sexual abuse likely occurred, but claims the bus company "spoliated evidence" from multiple bus rides.

Cohen  and Quinlan declined to comment when contacted. Counsel for Buffalo Public Schools said the district was being represented by attorneys for First Student. A spokesman for First Student said the company doesn't comment on matters in litigation.


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