What Would You Do?

Posted on: 29 July, 08

Just heard another story of a school bus driver leaving a small child in the wrong place.  This child was dropped off at the wrong stop, MILES from his home.  He was the only child dropped off at that stop, no other children to help him figure what to do.  He had to walk a half mile to the closest house, knock on the door, and ask a total stranger for help.  He is only 5 years old….his first day of kindergarten.  Poor baby.  The homeowner was able to get enough information from the child to contact the mother.  It had been over an hour of torture for her, not knowing where her child was.  This story had a happy ending, but it easily could have gone very, very wrong.

As your little ones get ready to return to school, talk to them about what to do if they get off at the wrong stop, if you are not there to meet them at the bus stop,  if you are not home when they get home.  Have a plan.  Write up a little index card with emergency phone numbers.  Include your home number, cell, spouse’s work & cell numbers, trusted friend/neighbor, the school’s number.  Include several numbers because you never who will be available.  Laminate the card or put it in a zippered plastic bag.  Put the card in your child’s lunch box, binder, folder, backpack.  Put it someplace where your child can find it.  You will have to remind your child from time to time because, in all likelihood, the card will be never needed.  That makes it very easy to forget.

Walk the route from the bus stop to your house with your child.  Point out the houses along the way where he can stop for help.  Help him find visual clues to help him remember who lives in each house.  Take a walk through the neighborhood to say “hello” to people who might be home to help your child.  Let your child  know  where to go if you are not home to greet  him.  To avoid causing anxiety, don’t say things like, “if i get into a car accident and can’t get home….”  Go for “If I get stuck in traffic…..”

To keep these types of plans and cautionary tales from slipping out my children’s heads, we often played the “What Would You Do” game.  We usually did this in the car because the boys were a captive audience and we didn’t have a whole lot else to do.  The waiting room of the doctor’s office was another favorite forum for this game.  To play, you ask someone “What would do if…..”  I would start out with some silly or fanciful questions like, “What would do if your bed suddenly started to fly,” “you woke up with green hair,” “you could pick a super power for only one day.”  Then I would slip in the more serious ones like “if you got off at the wrong bus stop” or “there was a fire in the middle of the night.”  Of course, the boys loved turning the tables to ask me questions.  It was a nice way to slip in the important stuff without making it a big deal.


7 Responses to "What Would You Do?"

Teri, this is great information. I’m going to ask my older daughter to read it for her kids. It’s scary that a bus driver would let a child off alone when there’s no one there to meet them. Especially a five year old. Sheesh. There’s an Allstate commercial that plays out here where a mom picks up her kids from some after school activity and offers the last boy there a ride home. He declines the ride. The next scene, the mom and her kids are sitting on the bleachers waiting with the boy until his parent arrives. I love that commercial. It’s about doing the right thing. We all have a responsiblity to ensure a child’s safety, even if it isn’t our own child.

poor baby 😦 i don’t think we’ll let ryan catch the bus next year, maybe the year after (so he’d be 6.5y) it’s only a 10 minute trip to here. will just have to see how comfortable we feel with it then.

i remember as a 6 yo sleeping past my stop and waking up a few stops later lol can’t remember the fall out though!

I so sympathise with that little boy and especially his mother. How scary is that!! He did really well to get himself out of that situation. I’m not sure either of mine would do so well.

Thank you for reminding me of the importance of planning ahead. We haven’t gone over “what to do if you get lost” for a while now (my children don’t take the bus to school). I always tell them to look for a Mommy with a stroller as being someone who would know what to do. There are too many people in uniforms for me to be comfortable telling them to look for a policeman, and besides there are more Mommy’s than police around usually!

Ann (from ottobre english)

My daughter and her family are currently be transferred to a new city and my little granddaughter will soon start kindegarden at a new school. Your blog has very good suggestions for all parents with young children starting back to school. I am passing your blog info onto my daughter. Thank you so much for your ideas. I really enjoy reading your blog.

how am I not surprised that you come up with some terrific guidelines for helping to make a child’s life safer and less scary? Here are a few stories that will reinforce the fact that this scary experience has and does happen. Here in our city, we have some pretty stringent rules for bus transportation that were put in place partly because too much responsibility was being left with the bus driver by a few parents who wanted to shift responsibility to the school/bus system.
About 30-some odd years ago, when our first dd started kindergarten, we had a similar experience. I was at home, with two younger siblings and no car, and the second day of school ended, and my dd was not on the bus when it stopped. Fortunately, I had made the aquiantence of another mother whose dd was going on the same bus from the same stop, and we were both waiting for children who were no longer on the bus. When we asked the busdriver where our children were, he said “I don’t know. I’m not a babysitter, they should know where to get off the bus by now”. My dd was 5 years old. The bus went on a long circuitous route that barely skirted our neighbourhood. The other mom got in her car, and backtracked the bus route, and found both girls sobbing at a street corner on the other side of a busy 4 lane city street. Even if they had known the way home, it might have been disastrous for them to try to walk home. Our solution after phoning and asking that the bus driver be dismissed, was to follow the bus home for the first week of school to ensure that the kids got off in the right place. We brainstormed some ideas and came up with sewing a clear plastic pocket on the inside of the children’s jackets, that had an index card with all the required info on it. We brought this to the attention of the SB and thankfully, they insisted the following year that all the children have a laminated card attached to their zipper pull that had all the important info on it. Now, that wouldn’t be safe any more, but at the time, it did give us some degree of comfort.
With our grandchildren (two dgd’s get off the bus at our house every day) we have practiced the what if game many times. We have introduced them to neighbours, and made sure that they are comfortable enough to call on them if they need help.
However, here is how school policy has changed. The first month or so of school, the bus driver is instructed to make sure that their is an adult *visible* in the window or in the yard, so that they are certain that their is an adult at home. This also applies to early dismissals for snowstorms or other emergencies. Parents are required to file an emergency plan with the school that details what should be done if there is no adult at home (i.e. who/where is an alternate drop off person/location). This is brought up in class on a monthly basis in the earlier grades, less often with children who are old enough to retain that information for any length of time. (I guess this excludes 8th graders LOL)
Parents are not allowed to have two bus stop locations. i.e. Johnny gets on at Oak Street Monday thru Wednesday and at Birch street Thursday and Friday. Only *one* schedule is allowed, and it cannot vary from that, except to make a *new* schedule. This causes some difficulty for shared custody situations, or for children who have multiple caregivers for after school. However, it means that children are required to follow one, and only one bus routine which is filed and signed by the parent before the child is enrolled at school. The school board has the right to challenge any transportation plan, if they feel that it puts the child in any risk at all. I think the hard line was taken in the interest of safety for the children rather than the ease and convenience of the caregivers. Caregivers/parents are required to make arrangements so that a stable bus routine is followed, or are allowed the option to transport/pick up the child from school on their own.
Around the time that my dd had this happen, another incident came to light. A parent called the school to say her child had not been dropped off at home after school that day. A city wide search was begun, and for 4 hours, the police and all the parents in the vicinity searched high and low for the child. By this time, it was totally dark out, and people were beginning to fear something very bad had happened. The bus driver, for some reason (I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to her before this time) had the sudden urge to go and check the bus. There she found a distraught, frightened child, who had fallen asleep laying on the back seat, and woke to find herself alone, in the bus compound, in a locked bus, for several terrifying hours. After that, all bus drivers were required to make a physical inspection, of their bus front to back and under seats at the end of each days run, and to sign off on that as they did for doing a circle check of the exterior of the bus.
I must say, I think we have a pretty remarkable system in place here now, compared to what I’ve heard about other nearby cities, and to the city that my dgd’s moved here from. Even so, we had a tragic accidental death of a kindergarten child on a school bus, which was unrelated to this kind of scenario, but was a partly the result of safety on a school bus that could still be tightened up a few notches. The coroners inquest in that case came back with 10 recommendations which have all been adopted by the bus companies under our SB jurisdiction.
One other thought about security measures was that came to mind, was that our city also installed video cameras on a few select buses and had decoy cameras on the rest, so that a child never knew when they could be being video taped misbehaving. The “real” camera was rotated on a regular basis enough to keep the kids (and the drivers) on their best behaviours.
Hmmm, I seem to have gone on a long rant here, but when I read this entry, it brought back the memory which still brings goosebumps, of that bus driver saying it was “not his job” to ensure my child came home to where she left from. I can still recall that feeling of disbelief, and then feeling gut-punched and of wanting to run street by street screaming my child’s name.
Scary, scary and I know, because we have talked about it often, that my daughter vividly remembers that day.

gaaakkkkk, wordpress doesn’t allow you to go back and correct spelling and grammar. Sorry! Curious, wordpress doesn’t recognize wordpress as a valid word. And (no surprise) it doesn’t recognize Canadian spelling.

Poor kiddo.
I’m a school bus driver and I would never leave a kid alone like that. Besides my school dist’s strict policy of not dropping off a kindergartner without a recognizable, by the child, adult AT the bus stop – not in a window of the house. There have been times I haven’t dropped off 7th graders.
There are too many ways for a situation like that to go wrong, I’m so glad it didn’t.

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