Bus driver causes guideline scrutiny

November 11, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

A school bus driver's decision to return a sick child to her bus stop and let her walk home unattended has school officials re-evaluating guidelines for drivers.

Jean Bradshaw, the mother of the 8-year-old girl, said she was furious after learning that her daughter was left at the stop Oct. 23.

School officials said that Kathy Bradshaw, a third-grader at Northfield Elementary School in Ellicott City, began vomiting shortly after boarding the bus. After Kathy said she wanted to return home and assured the driver that her mother was there, the driver returned to the girl's bus stop at Valerie Carol Court and Gray Rock Drive in Ellicott City. The child then walked about 200 yards to her home. The driver told school officials of her decision when she arrived at Northfield Elementary.

Mrs. Bradshaw this week said she is still horrified at the driver's actions.

"I feel we were very, very lucky," said Mrs. Bradshaw, who had planned to attend a gymnastics class with her 5-year-old that day. "In another situation, we might not have been so lucky."

The driver, acting within her rights, was not chastised for her actions, officials said.

Mrs. Bradshaw said she would like to see a procedure that prevents children who become ill or disruptive from leaving a school bus without adult supervision.

Under the current policy, bus drivers must pick up and drop off students at authorized stops only. There is no clear-cut policy requiring bus drivers to either deliver an ill child to school or return the child to an assigned bus stop.

Robert S. Lazarewicz, director of operations, said he may implement procedures that would allow bus drivers to drop children off at home. Mr. Lazarewicz said he also suggests that parents double-check the health of their children before sending them off to school.

"We're going to try to provide bus drivers with more alternatives," said Mr. Lazarewicz, who plans to take up the issue with the Pupil Transportation Advisory Committee. The committee consists of about 12 parents, bus drivers, bus contractors, and school administrators.

But David Drown, transportation supervisor, said a blanket policy is not in students' best interests.

Mr. Drown said "too many variables come into play" when a child becomes ill on a school bus. For example, a parent may be unable to pick up a sick child at school, or a bus ride to school could take too long before a parent could be notified.

"It's a judgment call," Mr. Drown said. "The circumstances will dictate what's in the best interest of the child."

"I can understand the mother's concern," school board President Deborah D. Kendig said. "I would be upset, too. But I don't know whether an absolute policy would solve the problem or create problems."

County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, who received a complaint letter from Mrs. Bradshaw, said he wants to equip school buses with two-way radios to enable drivers to contact school officials in case of emergencies.

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