The Salem R-80 School District has addressed a situation last week where a first grader got off the afternoon bus at the wrong stop to go home with a friend, officials said.
Superintendent John McColloch said the incident was a mistake by the driver and against district policy.
“Obviously that’s not supposed to happen,” he said. “With kindergarten and first grade students, they’re not supposed to let them off the bus unless they can see the parent. Unfortunately, the mistake happened and we’ve corrected it and we’ve taken measures to try to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
After she went to her friend’s house, the girl was driven home by people who were visiting the home from out of state, according to her father, who asked not to be identified for this story. She arrived home before the bus reached her house and her mother flagged the bus down to confront the driver, the father said.
McColloch said the first grader got off the bus at a stop where a number of students were dropped off.
“A parent had gotten on to give the driver some flowers,” he said. “She got distracted and the girl slipped off with a large group of students.” He said administrators are working with the transportation department to come up with protocols and steps to prevent a reoccurrence. “But the policy is elementary kids don’t get off unless the driver can see the parents,” he said.
The father said his daughter has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD and that may have contributed to her decision to get off the bus.
“There are probably more than a handful of those students on the bus,” he said. “Drivers need to know these kids are at risk and they have to be watched.” He said he also understands the district has a shortage of bus drivers and that may be another contributing factor.
He recommended the use of video monitors like those installed on buses that transport special needs and handicapped students.
After walking to her friend’s house, the father said it was his understanding the friend’s mother said “absolutely not, she was not going to come over and play without it being arranged in advance.” There was no car available so the friends visiting from California were apparently asked to drive his daughter home, he said.
“The lady that brought our daughter home came to the door and told my wife ‘It was good thing your daughter knew where she lived and was able to tell me where to take her,’” the father said.
He believes the district should have a policy so parents know what to do if a strange child shows up at their home unannounced.
“When kids do these types of things, what is the other parent supposed to do? What is the proper protocol?” he said. In this day and age, it might be best to have them call the police, he said.