11-Year-Old Is Left Unattended on School Bus

By Sopan Joshi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008

An 11-year-old boy stayed unattended on a bus operated by D.C. public schools for about two hours Wednesday after the driver and an attendant, who delivered other children to school, failed to notice him.

The boy, who apparently had fallen asleep, woke up in a bus parking lot on New York Avenue NE. He opened the bus door and was then driven to his school, the High Road School on Kansas Avenue NE, by another school bus driver.

Apparently, neither the first driver nor the attendant realized that he boy had not disembarked at the school, nor did they check the bus before parking it. The bus transported only four children, including the boy.

The driver apologized to the boy's mother.

David Gilmore, the school district's transportation administrator, said "appropriate disciplinary action" has been taken.

The boy's mother, Evelyn Sykes, was at the school for a meeting with teachers when her son was driven there a few minutes after 11 a.m. As she was driving the child home, Sykes said she heard him say he never wanted to go to school again because he was scared. She took him to Children's National Medical Center, where a physician told her that the child had a panic attack.

Gilmore said all drivers and attendants are required to walk to the back of the bus to check for children who have fallen asleep. "The driver and the attendant didn't do their walk in this instance," he said.

Three-fourths of the school bus fleet, he said, are newer models in which the driver has to walk to the back to press a button before leaving the vehicle.

"Unfortunately, this was one of the older buses," he said.

Gilmore said that the bus checked into the parking lot at 9 a.m. and that the boy was seen by staff at 10:40 a.m. He had been picked up about 8 a.m.

"He was sitting on the third seat. How could they miss him?" Sykes asked.

She registered a complaint with officers in the 5th Police District.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company