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UPDATE: 3-Year-Old Batavia Student Left on School Bus, Parents Demand Answers

The boy was supposed to be dropped off Friday at Alice Gustafson School. But his parents say he was never released from his harness on the bus. He was discovered missing from class and finally returned to the school.

Editor's note: The initial version of this story included information about a child possibly being asleep on a bus as that bus dropped him off at school. The parents of the child said their child may have fallen asleep after an adult failed to take him off the bus, but he was likely not asleep during the original drop-off. We apologize for any confusion about this.

A 3-year-old Batavia student was never taken off his bus during a school drop-off on Friday, prompting calls to the parents and the bus company.

Sarah Gorr of Batavia reported putting her young son on a school bus at 8:55 a.m. Friday. The bus was headed for , 905 Carlisle Rd.

The school houses the district's Early Childhood Center, which serves children ages 3 to 5 with an identified developmental disability.

Gorr was later contacted by the school sometime after 9:30 a.m., advising her son was not in class. She immediately headed to the school.

"I realized from the looks on their faces that they did not have him, and that’s when I totally freaked out, started crying," Gorr told Batavia Patch Monday evening.

The school’s staff called  for this year, Illinois Central School Bus. They found out the child was still on the same bus, which by that time had traveled back up to the company's local bus facility in St. Charles. 

The child was returned to the school that morning. The school is about seven miles away from the bus facility.

"We contacted the parent," Batavia Superintendent Jack Barshinger wrote in an e-mail on Monday. "She was at school when the bus arrived."

The missed drop-off on Friday is one in a series of incidents involving Illinois Central School Bus, who had  during the first few weeks of school. In some cases, .

The parents talked to some of the bus company officials already, but they still want answers as to why their son was never taken off the bus on Friday morning like always.

"I’m very upset now," Gorr said.

How This Happened

Gorr stressed that her son did not forget to get off the bus on Friday morning. That's because he and the other Early Childhood students are secured in harnesses for the bus ride.

The bus company usually has an adult assistant on the bus, someone in addition to the driver, that helps secure the students on and off the bus, Gorr said.

The Early Childhood students are placed in harnesses that zips up from behind. There are four spots on the harness where they are latched into the bus seat. They also wear a regular seat-belt, Gorr said.

"He can’t get off the bus," Gorr said of her son. "He needs an adult to release him off the bus."

On Friday, a female driver took Gorr’s son to school. There was not an assistant on the bus Friday morning, Gorr said.

The female driver was removing students from their harnesses on the bus. She was asked a question by one of the school employees and apparently became distracted, Gorr said.

Bus drivers are supposed to conduct a check of their bus to make sure everyone left. This did not happen right away on Friday morning, Gorr said.

“She thought in her mind she had released all the children … and did her bus check,” Gorr said. “There’s no way you’re going to miss the child sitting there.”

The school has staff monitor employees outside the school that help usher the Early Childhood students into the school.

Neither the bus driver nor the school monitor saw the child on the bus, Barshinger said in an e-mail to Batavia Patch.

The bus pulled away from the school with the boy still secured in his seat. He is speech delayed and cannot say more than a few words, Gorr's husband Tom said.

Where the Bus Went

The bus driver followed another driver to the so she would know its location for future reference, Gorr said.

The driver then drove to Illinois Central’s bus facility in St. Charles. During a final sweep of the bus, she noticed that Gorr’s child was still secured in his seat.

The female driver had a second driver accompany her back to Alice Gustafson School in the same bus to drop off the boy.

Gorr said she has a written statement from the driver that explains what happened. Nowhere in the statement does it say the driver called a bus company dispatcher or supervisor about what happened.

On the way back to the school, the driver was contacted by dispatch, who asked about her location. Dispatch was contacted by the school after they realized the student was not in class.

The bus returned to the school with the boy, where Gorr was waiting for them.

The driver briefly explained what happened. Gorr said she did not offer an apology.

“It doesn’t sound to me like she should be behind the wheel,” Gorr said of the driver.

Change in Procedure

To avoid this from happening again, the bus monitors at the school will now board the buses to make sure all the children are taken off.

Barshinger said the new boarding check was added on Friday after the incident. It will be the ongoing procedure for when Early Childhood students arrive to the building. The school already has a procedure in place for when students leave the school to go home.

The Gorrs said the school district responded quickly to the situation, but the bus company's response frustrates them.

The new morning driver for Gorr's child on Monday said he was not informed about the missed drop-off incident on Friday.

"This is just beyond irresponsible," Tom Gorr said.

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kathy September 23, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Thank you Mr. Drendle~ I apologize for assuming you had no experience with special needs individuals. I also apologize for climbing onto my soap box. :0)
sandy January 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I drive a school bus for special needs and we have do a child safety check before we go anywhere else or we lose our jobs. There is no excuse for this to have happened if they do a child check after students are released from the bus. We do it in the morning and afternoon.
sandy January 16, 2012 at 09:29 PM
As a school bus driver when you are new area it is slow going but a driver should have a route sheet so they know where to drop these students.
sandy January 16, 2012 at 09:34 PM
kathy I totally agree with you. These students can learn and want to learn and go to school. I am gratefully that my children and grandchildren are not handicapped but I have driven a school bus for 6 years and I have done special needs for most of it and I have seen these children blossom so much. I am very impressed with the parents of these children for all they do and to keep them home with them and not send them to homes.
shawanda February 11, 2013 at 04:10 AM
I agree with you, the bus driver just didnt do their job. My nine year old who is blind, was left on the bus for three hours and the bus had two adults on the bus. Now tell me how did they leave my child and she was sitting in the third row at that. The temperature was 22 degrees that morning.

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