Driver resigns after leaving student on school bus

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

A Salem Community Schools bus driver has resigned her position after leaving a student, 11, on one of the minibuses after school on Monday, Jan. 13.

Interim Superintendent Kim Thurston said the driver stopped at the child’s home after school and, when he didn’t get off the bus, she assumed he hadn’t gotten on the bus to go home that day. She came back to the compound and left the bus. He said about 15 minutes later, another member of the transportation staff found the student. They knew the student and where he lived and took him home on another bus.

Thurston said this occurred at 4:30 p.m.

“As soon as we knew, DeeDee Zink and I called [the student’s] home and told them what happened and that he was on another bus on the way home,” said Thurston. “That was the first communication we had with the home. The home hadn’t contacted us yet.”

The student’s mother, Bobbie Cochrane, said she had contacted the school multiple times. She said her son is usually home by 3:45 p.m., and when he hadn’t arrived home by 4, she began calling.

“We started calling the administration office and the bus drivers,” she said. “We were panicked. We didn’t know what to do. I assumed the bus might have had mechanical troubles. You don’t automatically think your child has been left on a bus.”

Cochrane said her son had fallen asleep on the bus and had woken up in a bus that had been parked for the night at the bus depot. She said he tried calling on the CB radio, but when he wasn’t successful with that, left the bus to look for someone to help. He didn’t find anyone, so he returned to the bus and began yelling out the window and was eventually heard by a driver who used to drive his bus.

“We’re very proud of him for the actions he took,” Cochrane said. “It’s not like we’d ever sat down with him and told him what to do if he was left at the bus depot. God knows what could have happened. The wrong person might have been walking around or something like that. It’s January. It was 40-something degrees. If it had been another year when it wasn’t so warm, this could have been worse.”

She said her son took his time walking from the bus that dropped him off to his house.

“He acted like he thought he would be in trouble for falling asleep on the bus,” she said. “We had to explain to him that the adults had failed him. He was nervous about going back to school. He tried to pretend he was sick.”

Cochrane said this isn’t the first time her son had fallen asleep on the bus and been mistakenly brought back to school, but this was the first time a driver had left for the day with him still on the bus.

“There are only four students on that bus,” said Cochrane. “Missing him on that bus is absolutely ridiculous. [The driver] has always been really good with him and he really liked her, but what she did was negligent, in my opinion.”

She said she hopes the school will take this opportunity to ensure bus safety policies are enforced.

“I know it’s a simple mistake, but if I made that mistake, CPS would be removing my son from my care,” she said. “I hope the school takes the opportunity to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The situation could have turned out worse than it was.”

Thurston said the driver came in the next morning, Tuesday, Jan. 14, and after a brief discussion, resigned her position.

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