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A driver who left a 5-year-old boy from Linden Hill Elementary on a freezing school bus for several hours has been fired, the Sutton Bus Co. confirmed Thursday.
Dave Sutton, the company’s senior vice president, would not comment any further on the incident. Sutton Bus Co. contracts with the Red Clay Consolidated School District and was the driver’s employer.
The little boy, Ibn, got on the bus at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. At 3:10 p.m., his mom, Ivana, got a call from the school district informing her that Ibn never made it to class.
Several policies — both on the school bus and at Linden Hill Elementary School — were not followed, putting Ibn in harm’s way, Red Clay said Tuesday.
“Physically, he’s OK, thank God,” district spokeswoman Pati Nash said, adding that district officials are horrified by the incident.
What the experts say
They are rare, the magazine says, but when they do happen kids are put at risk and the school bus driver is often terminated.
In some instances, students have died, including a 3-year-old who was left on a day care bus in Texas after a field trip in July. It was only when the boy’s father came to pick him up at 6:30 p.m. that officials discovered the boy was missing.
The key for avoiding tragedy is to build in redundancies, schoolbusfleet.com says.
Drivers should be required to perform multiple checks — at the end of each run and after returning to the bus yard — and buses should be equipped with a child reminder system, an alarm that makes drivers intentionally walk to the back of the bus to check for students and disarm the system.
But those measures are not foolproof, as the Red Clay incident shows.
According to the school district, these are all the things the bus driver did not do:
- Check the bus when two students told her Ibn was asleep.
- Check the bus when she was done dropping off kids at Linden Hill in Pike Creek.
- Check the bus when she parked it at the Red Clay bus yard near New Castle, despite signs reminding her to do so.
The bus also had a child reminder system.
“Apparently, that did not work in this case either,” Nash said.
The bus driver did not notice Ibn was still on the bus until 2:50 a.m., roughly six hours after he got on, when he either coughed or made a small noise, camera footage from the vehicle shows.
What parents can do
Ibn’s mom did everything right.
She made sure he got on the bus Tuesday morning and trusted that he would make it safely to school.
His teacher took attendance late, however.
At Linden Hill Elementary, it is supposed to be taken by 10:15 a.m. The information is sent to the main office and at 11 a.m., parents get a call letting them know that their child is absent.
That never happened, so no one realized Ibn was unaccounted for.
After similar incidents, parents have pushed for new policies ensuring kids don’t get stranded on buses.
Here are a few different approaches that have been taken:
- At some districts, bus drivers are required to walk to the back of the bus and hang a sign or flag on the back window saying the bus is empty. This low-tech solution doesn’t depend on an electronic child remind system functioning properly.
- At some districts, two staff members have to check the bus for students before it’s allowed to leave the school.
- Some districts have drivers go outside the bus and open one of the emergency doors to get a good view of the floor and make sure no one is sleeping or hiding under one of the seats.
- One transportation manager in New Jersey came up with catchy slogans such as “Be on the ball, check for us all,” each month and put them on posters and flyers, according to schoolbusfleet.com.
Several school districts, Red Clay included, make it clear in their handbooks that leaving a child on a bus is a fireable offense.
“In our bus driver handbook, it’s grounds for immediate termination to leave a child on a bus,” Nash said.
The driver in this case was not directly employed by Red Clay, but the district immediately requested that they no longer drive for the district.
Sutton Bus Co. then terminated the employee.
If you’re nervous about your kids getting to school, there are apps that can help.
One is Life360’s Family Locator. It lets you save favorite locations so that friends and family get automatic alerts when you come and go. You can register your child’s cellphone (it doesn’t need to be a smartphone), and the app will find them on a map.
It also has a panic button.
If your child is too young for a cellphone, there are several wearable GPS trackers on the market. Some are watches, and some are patches for their clothing. Others clip onto their backpacks.
Popular brands include:
Prices vary. Read reviews before purchasing the best one for your family.