GULFPORT, Ms. (WLOX) – It’s a situation no parent wants to happen to a child – being let off the school bus and left to wander through a neighborhood. All the while, parents are looking for the child.
That’s what happened to one Gulfport kindergartner Thursday afternoon, leaving both parents and school leaders in a state of panic.
A busy neighborhood street connects to Pass Road and Gulfport’s waterfront. Anniston Avenue Elementary School sits right in the middle. A lost five year old child is left wandering through the area.
“It’s the most terrifying thing that you can think of and then after getting him and coming home and him telling us that strangers were talking to him,” the child’s mother Cara Burrows said.
“It could have been tragic,” Gulfport school district superintendent Glen East said.
Gulfport school district protocols spell out the rules. A school bus driver should not let a kindergartner off the bus without an adult at the bus stop. However, Cara Burrows says she wasn’t there, and her son was let off the bus anyway.
“He walked down Anniston, walked to our house, dropped his backpack off, realized that mom’s not there so then he turned to walk back down Anniston to come looking for us,” Burrows said.
His parents were looking for him. They went to the school, alerted the teachers and they say administrators ran up and down the hallways to find him.
“At that point, nobody could find him,” Burrows said. “So the principal then started contacting all of the buses; as soon as the last bus contacted and said he was not there, everyone left to look for him.”
The child’s parents say after nearly an hour of driving and searching, they spotted him running and screaming towards their vehicle.
Now, parents are demanding that the bus driver be terminated.
“I feel like if you’ve been a bus driver for 2 years, you don’t need to be retrained in child safety,” Burrows said. “This isn’t something small. This is something very major. We were told he won’t be on this bus route but he will be on a bus route. Why does this man still have his job?”
School administrators are taking the situation seriously and say this isn’t the first time transportation safety has been called into question.
“Those people will have to go back through retraining,” Superintendent East said. “They will not be on those buses today that’s for sure, and I don’t know about the future. It’s a personnel issue for them. It could run anywhere from retraining or termination depending on service, depending on service, response, depending on the employee, etc.”
The school district tells us they will be implementing a new bus card system in October. Students will swipe their ID as they get on and off the bus. Parents can access that information through an app, so they can know where their kids are at all times.
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