You ask yourself – how does this happen? It happens more often than you would think! While researching this subject I found numerous cases of drivers parking the bus for the day and not looking to see if everyone is off the bus.
In Lacy, WA, a bus driver left a child with special needs alone on the bus for more than 7 hours. The 6-year-old boy was to be dropped off at a local day care center after school, but never arrived. Instead, the driver returned to the school district’s transportation yard where the driver parked the bus for the night. When the child’s foster mom went to pick him up at the day care, she was informed he never arrived. She reported the incident to the police and at 11:00 pm that night, they found him on the bus parked in the transportation yard. He was asleep. The bus driver resigned.
Three school employees were placed on leave in Waterbury, CT, after a 4-year-old was “forgotten” after a field trip and left on a school bus. The child fell asleep during the 40 minute ride back to the school. When she woke up, officials said she managed to open up the emergency door of the bus and started wandering a neighboring parking lot when two strangers found her and called the school and the police. According to police, one of the teachers said she was doing a headcount when one student got sick and she escorted the child off the bus. The teacher then told the police she assumed the bus was empty and the other teacher and chaperone had gotten the other students off the bus.
There are measures that schools can take. In addition to walking the aisle of the bus and verifying that all the seats are empty, there is a monitor that schools can use. Here’s how it works: warning lights are activated when children enter the bus. The monitor is turned on and becomes engaged when the ignition of the bus is turned off. In order to deactivate the monitor, the driver has to go the rear of the bus and depress a button on the monitor. This forces the driver to walk the length of the bus and check for children.
There are many, many accounts of this happening all over. Smaller children are harder to see. Sometimes their heads don’t show above the seats or they are lying down or have fallen asleep. Most school districts have a policy that requires the driver to walk the aisle of the bus and verify that the bus is actually empty. But whether they do this or not, we never know until a child is found left alone on a school bus.