Kindergartner dropped off at wrong bus stop, wanders until found by dad
A Hamilton County school bus driver is off the job Tuesday night after dropping a kindergartner off at the wrong stop, more than a mile from his home. The driver told her supervisor the kindergartner told her to let him off the bus, but the child's mother said the driver should have known better.
A spokesperson for Durham, which operates Hamilton County buses, said the driver of bus #402 did not follow protocol. We are told she does not have a future with the company.
Meghan Phillips said kindergarten was off to a good start for her son Tre, until Friday.
“He was excited to go back, meet new friends, and have a new teacher,” Phillips said.
Tre rode the school bus home for the first time on Friday. Phillip's husband waited for him at his designated bus stop, but Tre never showed up.
“He said he waited for like 25 minutes, and then the bus driver came," Phillips explained. "He walked up to the door to get our child, and she asked him are you looking for Tre Phillips?”
The driver dropped Tre off a mile and a half from the stop. The 5-year-old was wearing a tag with the correct bus stop information, but Phillips said Tre was confused and asked to get off early. She said he got off alone in a different neighborhood.
“Even if the bus driver takes a kindergartener to the correct stop if there is a parent or guardian who does not come up to the bus and say I am here for so and so, they are supposed to take the child back to the school," Phillips said. "So the small children are not left out by themselves.”
Tre started walking, trying to find his home. His dad found him thirty minutes later.
“He was red-faced, he said he was thirsty," Phillips said. "He saw Mark and started crying.”
A Durham spokesperson said the company is investigating what happened and reviewing the bus footage. The driver, who was suspended, had previously given her two-weeks notice and is no longer with the company. Phillips said that is not enough.
“I don't believe they actually care about the safety of our children," Phillips explained. "Not in the way that as a parent I want them to care about the safety of our children.”
Phillips said her son's dream of riding the bus home from school will not happen until something changes.
“Until we terminate our contract with Durham School Services and look at these other companies who have better safety records," Phillips said. "Better track records, who have bid for our routes. Until someone else is hired, my son won't be riding the bus.”
In April 2017, the Hamilton County School Board unanimously voted for a two-year contract with Durham. That contract will expire in June of 2019.
A Durham spokesperson said safety is their top priority and all kindergarten students are to be dismissed to a parent or guardian. That protocol is reinforced during training at the start of each school year.