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.