4-year-old left alone on school bus in Balto. Co.

Incident is second within a month

February 17, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County school officials are apologizing -- for the second time in a month -- after a small child was left alone on an unattended school bus in a parking lot.

A bus driver and attendant left 4-year-old Vance Parks, a pre-kindergarten pupil at Red House Run Elementary School in Rosedale, on an empty bus for about 15 minutes Monday, officials said. Both employees have been suspended for five days without pay.

Workers found Vance asleep on the bus about 1: 20 p.m. Monday at the bus lot in Rosedale. He was unharmed, said Charles A. Herndon, school system spokesman.

The school bus driver and attendant picked up Vance at a day care center near Red House Run about 12: 15 p.m. Monday to take him to afternoon pre-kindergarten classes. Neither the driver nor the attendant noticed that Vance didn't get off the bus when it arrived at school, Herndon said.

Vance's parents will meet with school officials tomorrow to discuss the incident, said Rita Fromm, director of transportation for the school system.

The school system did not release the name of the driver or the attendant. Fromm said they haven't worked since Monday.

"Everywhere I go, everyone is talking about it," Fromm said. "We're all hurt by this, not just the driver and the attendant."

Last month, Malik Lucas, a 3-year-old special education pupil at Halstead Academy elementary school near Hillendale, was left on a Baltimore County school bus for about four hours. The driver and attendant in that incident also were suspended without pay for five days, the standard punishment for failing to check a bus for students and possessions at the end of a trip.

Fromm said she isn't sure why post-trip checks aren't always being made. Reminders are posted in department newsletters.

Recently, Fromm said, she heard from another bus driver that disruptions can cause a driver to lose concentration and forget a rule or skip a step, she said.

"In this instance, the attendant was ill and anxious to get home," Fromm said.

Fromm said she is considering purchasing devices that emit a loud buzz every time a school bus engine is turned off. Drivers would have to walk to the back of the bus to turn off the buzzers, which would be installed only on new buses.

Fromm has asked bus driver trainers to comb the county's bus lots to look for bus drivers who aren't completing post-trip checks, she said.

She said the bus driver and attendant who left Vance alone on the bus are "devastated. Nothing I could say or do could make them feel any worse than they already do."

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