School Bus Abandons 5-Year-Old On 1st Day

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Officials at a Montgomery County elementary school said they will improve communication and keep a closer watch on students after a 5-year-old boy was put on the wrong school bus Monday and dropped off eight blocks from home.

William Tawamba, a kindergartner at Woodlin Elementary School in Silver Spring, was supposed to ride the bus to a nearby church for after-school care. But because of miscommunication at school, he ended up alone on an unfamiliar street for nearly an hour, said his mother, Kim Hawkins.

Hawkins said she had no idea her son was lost until her former husband, with whom William lives, received a call about 5 p.m. from the after-school center saying their son was not among the children who had been dropped off that afternoon.

About a half-hour later, Hawkins said, the concierge at her ex-husband's building called him to say their son had been dropped off by passersby. They had found William wandering around the neighborhood and were able to help him get home because a pink tag on his backpack listed his address and home phone number.

"It was complete negligence," Hawkins said. "My son is okay, but he is traumatized, and this school hasn't said anything other than 'We're sorry.' "

A spokesman for the school system said the school is reviewing its procedures in light of the incident.

"Staff met with parents [yesterday] morning and profoundly apologized," said Brian Edwards, spokesman for Montgomery County public schools. "We certainly feel terrible about it. We will make sure that procedures are corrected and improved. It was a mistake."

Edwards said part of the problem was that William did not receive a color-coded tag when he arrived at school Monday, the first day of classes. The tags are given to younger students when they get off the bus in the morning so educators will know which bus they should board after school. But because William's parents dropped him off that morning rather than having him ride the bus to school, he did not receive a tag, school officials said.

Hawkins said her son was excited about his first day -- and was most thrilled about being able to ride the school bus for the first time. But now, she said, "he doesn't trust anyone" at the school.

Prince George's County public school officials are also reviewing procedures for ensuring that students board the correct buses and get off at the right stops after incidents last week involving two girls at Concord Elementary in District Heights, a kindergartner and a pre-kindergartener. One girl boarded a bus when she was supposed to remain at school for day care; the other got off at the wrong stop.

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