A school system spokesman disagreed with Cummings’s account but sought to assure parents of the system’s commitment to reliable bus service.
“The safe transportation of our students is a top priority,” Briant Coleman, the spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are committed to ensuring that all students arrive to their designations in a timely manner and without injury. Our school principals and staff will continue to monitor transportation routes to ensure that we have a safe school year.”
Coleman said the boy was dropped off at his designated stop, the corner of Buchanan and Taft roads, and must have wandered away after getting off the bus. But Cummings said she was waiting for her son at that corner on the first day of school, Aug. 20, and he never showed up.
Transportation mishaps sometimes occur in the first few weeks of school. In recent years there have been cases in which schools have put young students on the wrong buses in Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.
Cummings said that when her son did not get off the bus, she asked the driver where Garry was.
“I was hysterical,” Cummings said.
She said she jumped in her car and headed to Avalon Elementary to find out what happened. Before she reached the school, a driver flagged her down on Buchanan Road. Garry, she said, had recognized her car. The two vehicles pulled over, and Garry was returned to his mother.
Cummings said that she doesn’t know exactly where Garry was let off but that she thinks it was at a stop in Fort Washington. The stranger, Cummings said, told her that she found Garry on Allentown Road, a couple miles from his designated stop.
“I hugged her so tight,” Cummings said. With all the commotion, Cummings said, she didn’t get the stranger’s name.
Since the incident, Cummings said, Garry has been afraid to go to school. She has driven him to school and walked him to class, which has become a source of contention between Cummings and Principal Dianne Bruce. The principal warned Cummings in a letter last week that she could be barred from the school if she does not adhere to policies and procedures, which include a prohibition against walking a child to class. Said Coleman: “It is for the safety of our students and staff. . . . We can’t just have people walking in the building.”
Two days after Cummings contacted The Washington Post about the incident, the school system sent a letter to parents offering tips to ensure that children get to school and home safely.
“A new school year is a learning time for everyone, even for school bus drivers,” the letter states. “If you plan to meet your child at the stop in the afternoon, consider telling the bus driver that they should not get off the bus without someone present to meet them.”
The letter also offered four tips to help children become familiar with their bus and assigned stop, including visiting the stop and reviewing the area, and practicing the walk to and from the bus stop.