DELMAR — The family of an autistic student left outside his place of work as wind chill temperatures dipped below freezing has filed suit with the school district.
Michael Seavey, then a 21-year-old student last April at Bethlehem Central, was dropped off by district employees to his employer for a two-hour shift as part of his work-to-school program. According to his parents, Seavey was to be escorted from the bus by an attendant before he was handed off to his employer. On April 1, 2019, that did not happen. The place of business was closed for the day. The site’s owner was out of town and one of the employees neglected to inform the school. When Seavey was dropped off, the bus allegedly left before he attempted to walk into the building. Because the school did not allow him to take his cell phone to work, he was unable to call for help. He was found two hours later where he was dropped off.
News of the lawsuit was reported by the Times Union just prior to a meeting of the district’s board of education on Tuesday, July 7. The board went immediately into executive session to speak on the topic of an unnamed lawsuit.
Stephanie Corbett, a 20-year employee of the district, was later tied to the incident when she resigned a few weeks afterwards. According to multiple sources, Corbett was the bus attendant present when Seavey was transported by bus that morning. According to a source familiar with the situation, Corbett was later involved in another incident which was immediately followed by her resignation. The Spotlight previously filed a request for a copy of the termination agreement under state Freedom of Information Law; however, the district said there was no such agreement. The details of the incident were never disclosed by the district.
The Spotlight obtained an emailed statement from the district that acknowledged it as an isolated incident and that it had taken “immediate action to ensure it would not happen again.”
“Something like this should never happen and is absolutely unacceptable,” stated Jody Monroe, Bethlehem Central’s superintendent. “We have put in place new transportation protocols for our work program students to make sure this does not happen again. … Additionally, we are working to improve the communication with our business partners who host our students.”
The statement, however, did not elaborate on the nature of the “new transportation protocols.”
According to a weather almanac, the temperatures that morning were above freezing. At the approximate time in which Seavey was dropped off to work, the temperature was 38 degrees, but winds of 18 mph caused wind chill temperatures to fall below 30 degrees.
Tina Seavey, Michael’s mother, said she believed her son was neglected and told The Spotlight last April how she felt “overwhelmed with fear” for her son. She described her son as traumatized and having suffered through panic attacks as a result of the incident.
“I was scared that he was all alone for two hours,” said Tina Seavey. “From a mother’s perspective, I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s heartbreaking and there was nothing Michael could’ve done in the moment.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.