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Home News-Telegram News Driver resigns after 5-year-old left on school bus

Driver resigns after 5-year-old left on school bus

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    A school bus driver resigned Thursday after failing to check her bus following her afternoon route, leaving a sleeping 5-year-old student on the vehicle, according to Sulphur Springs Independent School District Transportation Director Larry Finney.

    “This was certainly an unfortunate thing. We were blessed and fortunate this turned out the way it did with no real bad effect. I’m not saying its a wonderful thing, but it could have ended a lot worse,” SSISD Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed said.
    Courtney Burley said when her daughter failed to get off the school bus at her County Road 3645 residence in Arbala by 4 p.m. Thursday, family members became concerned and attempted to contact the SSISD transportation department but got no response.
    The 5-year-old, a pupil at Early Childhood Learning Center, apparently fell asleep on the bus and rode the full route, and was left on the bus in the district bus parking area Thursday afternoon.
    “She woke herself up and let herself off the bus,” Burley said.
    The child’s mother believes her daughter was left on the bus for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Finney says based on the length of time it generally takes bus 52 to run its complete route and the time school staff reported coming into contact with the child and when he and his staff were contacted, the district believes the child was left on the bus alone about 10 minutes.
    The bus returned to the barn at approximately 4:25 p.m. and at about 20 minutes until 5 p.m. special education staff took her back to the bus barn, school staff noted.
    But, Finney admits that’s 10 minutes longer than anyone should have been on the bus.
    “Drivers are expected and required to check to make sure all the windows are put up, that there’s nothing left under seats or on the bus — no lost items and certainly no children left on the bus,” Reed said.
    “The driver did not walk the bus as required. The bus driver is no longer driving for us. This is about the most serious thing a bus driver can do. We take the stand that there is no excuse for that. It’s unfortunate this did happen, as hard as we try for it not to,” Finney said.
    SSISD does have several buses that are equipped with a “child find” activation system which requires someone to walk to the back of the bus once the bus is stopped and off to turn off the device. The alarm must be disabled within 45 seconds or every light on the bus will turn on and flash and the horn will sound until it is disabled. This feature is designed to ensure someone checks the length of the bus to make sure no passengers remain on board when the bus driver leaves.
    Unfortunately, bus 52 is one of the older buses which are not equipped with an activation system. The devices are standard functions on newer buses, like some the district has added to its fleet over the last three years, but not the older models, Finney noted.
Finney said the little girl apparently upon waking walked off the bus and through the transportation department gate. The child was disoriented, but alert enough to seek help at the next nearest building, the special education offices just outside the fence.
    “She went to special ed. She knew she could get help there. They brought her to the bus office. My secretary took her home. She was left at her residence with a family member,” Finney said.
    He said as soon as the girl was brought to transportation staff, they knew who she was and what bus she came off of. She was wearing the bus tag all younger students are required to have when riding a bus. Mix ups in buses, children missing the bus or as in this case, failing to get off at their stop, are the reasons for the tags.
    Burley said her child arrived home late with a “sticky note” with Mr. Finney’s personal cell phone number written on it.
    Burley said her daughter was still upset later Thursday and was taken to emergency room, where she was treated for inflammation of the throat and dehydration. She said the throat pain was caused by her daughter screaming hysterically after waking up scared on the bus alone. The dehydration, she said, was the product of being shut in the bus, which was shut off, with all the windows and doors closed.
    She said Monday afternoon her daughter also, over the weekend, continued to have nightmares about being left on the bus.
    Burley said she is very unhappy not only that the situation occurred, but also dissatisfied with the handling of the situation, from the bus driver’s failure to check for passengers to the way her child was returned to her and subsequent contact with district officials.
    “Her parents are disappointed and upset, understandably,” Finney said. “I take it very personally. My grandkids ride the bus, so it’s very personal. We want every child to get home safely. We make every attempt to do the right thing. Walking the bus is required every time. I even do it when I drive a bus with high school students. This time that didn’t happen.”




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