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Bus company says foul text not from driver’s phone

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officials from Herrera School Buses and Coaches said Wednesday that an expletive-laden text message presumably sent by a bus driver to the mother of a special needs child was in fact not sent by the driver.

The denial comes a day after Carol Montoya, the mother of a Chaparral Elementary School second grader with cerebral palsy said she received the text message from the driver’s phone number.

Using text message shorthand, the driver allegedly called the daughter “retarded” and told the mother to “get ur fat ass” up and take her own daughter to school, reminded the mother “I ain’t no nurse” and threatened her with the warning, “I know where u live.”

Therese Almager, an owner and special needs manager for Herrera Buses, said she and the driver examined the phone’s log for outgoing calls and text messages and went online to the Verizon website to look at the official log that corresponds to the driver’s phone number. There is no record of a call or text message being sent from the driver’s number to Montoya’s phone on the day in question, said Almager.

That information has been turned over to authorities, she said.

The driver and Montoya said that they had previously communicated via text message and phone calls.

Almager noted that the driver is herself the caretaker for her special needs son and it would be out of character for her to use disparaging labels to describe people who have handicaps.

APS has told the Herrera bus company that the driver is not to drive on any APS routes until Albuquerque Public Schools Police officers complete their investigation into the matter, said APS spokesman Rigo Chavez.

He added that Montoya last week contacted the APS transportation department and said she was “having trouble with the driver of the bus who transports her child.”

Also riding the bus is Montoya’s 4-year-old son, who is autistic and enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program at Chaparral Elementary.

APS contacted Herrera to see about getting “a different driver for that route or getting the child on a different bus.” Herrera informed APS that neither was possible at that time, Chavez said.

According to Montoya, her daughter’s cerebral palsy prevents her from keeping her head upright voluntarily. If her head drops, it can cut off her airway and possibly cause her to vomit and choke, she said. An aide on the bus is supposed to watch over the children being transported, and in the case of Montoya’s daughter lift her head if it slumps.

Montoya said that last week her daughter came home twice with vomit on her clothing. She called the school to confirm her daughter had not vomited there and subsequently complained to Herrera. “The aide didn’t know she threw up on the bus either time, and they’re supposed to check her airway when that happens.”

An earlier incident with Herrera occurred about three years ago when Montoya’s daughter was being let out of a bus driven by a different driver. “Her wheelchair rolled off the ramp uncontrolled and ran into me and hurt my leg,” Montoya said.

She said she hired an attorney and the company compensated her.

In June, the Journal reported that two Herrera bus drivers had been fired – one for urinating in a bucket in front of schoolchildren and the other for blindfolding special needs students to avoid seeing them “staring.”