Make Sure You Walk Away With The Right Kid

On Friday afternoon I found myself running late after a doctor appointment, rushing home to make sure I didn’t miss Cordy’s bus. She is dropped off at our door, and if we’re not there to get her off the bus, they will only wait so long before driving on to the next stop. In our school district, that means you then have to pick up your child from Children’s Services, which no one wants to do.

I got home right at the time she’s scheduled to get off the bus, which is actually never the time the bus arrives. It has never arrived at that time – it’s usually coming around the curve about five or ten minutes later. I left the front door open to wait for her bus. Five minutes pass. Then ten. At this point I’m starting to wonder if I was too late. But I know her bus driver well enough to know that she’d wait at least five minutes if she happened to get here on time. Where was that bus?

Another ten minutes passed, and just as I was beginning to panic and consider calling the school district to ask where I need to go to get Cordy, I hear the bus coming down the street. And then I see it slowly inching along, pausing at each address, and coming the wrong direction. Ah, it’s a substitute driver today. Now I know why she’s late.

I immediately started to walk out the door toward the bus. I noticed an aide on the bus moving around and doing something, all while Cordy sat in her seat and waved to me from her window. As I crossed in front of the bus to get to the bus door, a taller child in a blue coat suddenly met me around the corner, smiling. This bus carries a lot of children with varying special needs, and this boy didn’t seem to notice or care that this wasn’t his house and I wasn’t his mom.

I peeked up into the bus, looking at the smiling driver and aide. “Have a good afternoon!” the aide yelled to me.

“WAIT!” I yelled back before the door could be closed, “This isn’t my kid.

The aide and driver looked at each other with an amused look. “What?” they laughed. I guess they thought I was making a joke.

“This isn’t my kid,” I said more insistently. “THAT is my daughter,” I growled, pointing to Cordy who was sitting right behind the driver. Cordy was still smiling, also probably thinking this was all a joke.

The aide immediately looked puzzled and yelled for the boy to get back on the bus, quizzing the boy, “Well, why’d you get off the bus if this wasn’t your stop?”

At this point the driver appeared to have a moment of intelligent thought with the revelation, “Oh, so that’s why she was saying ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ when you were walking to the bus.” Um, yeah, ya think? I suppose that would be why she was saying that. Is the school district that desperate for substitute bus drivers that they’ll hire anyone off the street?

Finally, the aide unbuckled Cordy and helped her down the stairs. I held Cordy in my arms as the aide and driver again tried to laugh about the mix-up. I glared at them and walked away, holding onto MY daughter.

It wasn’t funny. It was dangerous, it was careless, and it shouldn’t happen. Were I not all the way to the bus, they could have let that boy off and drove away before I could object. And who would they have given my daughter to? Cordy likely would have reacted the same way the boy did – she trusts adults, and probably would have willingly stepped off the bus, even knowing it wasn’t the right stop.

The district will be getting a call from me on Monday, urging them to make sure their substitute drivers are more careful about making sure special needs kids get to the right home safely. Some kind of safety procedure needs to be in place so that each child is matched up to the right address. I don’t care if it’s a seating chart or names on the seats or some other plan – a simple list of addresses and names isn’t enough.

I was worried that I had missed her bus. But being given the wrong child really scared me. I want to know my daughter will get home safely each day, and I want to trust that her bus driver will take her to the right address and only let her leave when one of her parents is there to take her hand.

Here’s hoping her regular bus driver will be back this week.

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  1. Wow, that would terrify me. I would be calling someone about it too.

    (I found your blog off the Ohio Moms blog. I’m a special needs mom living in Ohio, too. My daughter is 5, in Kindergarten, and has Asperger’s.)

  2. Yikes!!

    When your emotions are calmer will you have a talk with your daughter about making sure she only gets off the bus at your house? I always try to use mistakes as learning opportunities…

  3. OMG. That would make me ill. I agree, not something to joke about. I’m glad you’re going to call and complain.

  4. That is awful! My mom works in a school with special needs children and it’s her job to get the kids on and off their bus. She never misses a day of work because she is scared to death someone else would mess it up. I definately think you need to call and make sure the school district knows this happens.

  5. That is terrifying.

    I’d hate to be the school admin that has to deal with you tomorrow. ;)

  6. I so hear you on this one. Our current bus driver and aide are excellent, but we have had some MAJOR eff-ups with the bus in the past. It is appalling. What happened to Cordy and that other boy is absolutely not safe.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing: That this actually occured, or that they tried to laugh it off…..

  8. Dude, WTF??? I can’t believe that they let special needs kids off the bus without you even being across the street to meet them at all. My son is 3.5 and rides a bus, he goes to a special needs preschool. He’s not far behind, but has ADHD and enough speech delay that they accepted him. The bus driver pulls up to our driveway and they don’t let him off until I’m standing right there.

    I am glad you are going to call the school district because that is so not cool. Even subs should know the name of the kid for the stop and whether it’s a boy or a girl. Good Lord…

  9. MN RN Mom says:

    I’ve been scared about sending my daughter on the bus to school this faal – this story only reinforces the idea I want to drop her off and pick her up myself!!!

  10. When my son was in public school earlier this year, at first they would not put him on the bus because we live within a mile radius of the school and they wanted him to walk. Yes, we live within a mile radius, but we live AT THE LIMIT of that radius — our house is on the dividing line. And the only way to actually GET to the school from our house is to walk several blocks through winding streets without sidewalks and then take an incredibly busy road the size of a small highway, and in doing that one winds up walking more than a mile. And they wanted my kindergartner to walk home. With an adult or older sibling, but still. I knew it would be too much for him to deal with after an 8 hour school day.

    So, after a couple of weeks of trying to juggle picking him up by car, we decided to PAY for bus service. So we paid to have our kid on the public school bus. That was already going right by our house every day to drop kids off at a stop TWO HOUSES AWAY from ours.

    So on the first day he was supposed to ride the bus, I called them to ask where his stop would be so I could pick him up. Because even though they are fine with kindergartners WALKING HOME, like your school, they won’t release a kid from the bus without a parent waiting there.

    So they told me that his stop would be at the intersection of two roads. It so happens that these roads, which curve, intersect in THREE PLACES over a half mile distance. Despite three frantic phone calls, no one could tell me WHICH INTERSECTION he would be dropped off at.

    When I finally got what I thought was the answer, it turned out they sent me to the wrong stop. But the bus driver he happened to have that day recognized me because she had been his bus driver during preschool. She knew I was his mom, so she stopped.

    That is the only reason my kid got to the right place that day. Because he HAPPENED to have his old bus driver and she knew who I was.

  11. Holy shit. Time for a new substitute driver, special needs or not.

    You handled it way more diplomatically than I might have.

  12. I hope you tear into them. I dated a young lady in my church for awhile and one day while I was at her home with her and her mother the youngest child who was 5 came into the house with her older sister who was 14 but special needs also.

    The substitute bus driver just let her off the bus and the 5 year old who was 4 houses down playing with a friend saw her older sister just wandering around after the bus left, ran home and brought her inside.

    If she hadn’t been out there anything could have happened.

    I have a bit of an attitude, I am a rather large man taking afer my father who is almost 7 feet. I hate salespeople and stupid people.

    I went with the mother to the superintendents office the next day. he just sat back and sighed when he saw me. I had already had one of his principals fired for pushing me back against my car trying to intimidate me when I was picking up my brother from alternative school. Too bad for him the Arlington cop on duty saw the whole thing.

    To make a long story a little shorter that bus driver was fired and her passenger endorsement was revoked for 5 years. At least for that time she was unable to put any other children in danger.

  13. Unbelievable. I want to know how they responded to you.


  14. apaprikao says:

    That is pretty scary! I’m glad everything worked out okay.

  15. Holy cow. That is unreal. Twice in the last month when I pick up Reagan from preschool they wave me on to leave the parking lot and I don’t have my kid yet. They get annoyed at me for slowing down the lane and i have to get out and yell, “I DON’T HAVE MY KID!” Ugh.

    She’s sitting somewhere in the school building wondering where the hell I am too. Crazy.

  16. It’s sad the numbers of idiots caring for our children seems to be growing and can so easily create a situation like yours. Two years ago, my Middle Child (on an IEP) was assigned to Homework Club 1 day a week. I had to pick him 1 hour after school dismissed (25 minutes after his normal bus drop-off). Mid-January with 9 degree wind chills, they screwed up and put my kid on the bus… and no one noticed! I happened to be home in between errands with the Baby, and was there when the door opened. Had I not been, there was no one home next door or even up the street who could have helped him. I still had to pick up his friend at Homework Club, so I had words that day with the office folks and teachers. The response from them? Oh well, it was a mistake, and then they told his 10yo friend that it was HIS job to make sure my kid was there!!! At which point, I looked at the person in charge and the secretary and said, “No, it’s your job, and if it happens again, I won’t be talking to you; my husband and I’ll be having a word with the principal and superintendent.”

    By all means, speak with your daughter, as Rachel said, but realistically, these people are PAID to be in charge of your child and have failed miserably at the job. As so many others noted, your speaking up could keep another child from experiencing the same situation… or worse. Time for personal responsibility to a job requirement.

  17. Ha! That’s horrible. Dawson rides the bus, too, but thankfully something like that hasn’t happened yet!

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