School put girls on wrong bus, but dad nearly winds up in handcuffs
By Michael E. Ruane,
A Laurel minister whose two young daughters were placed on the wrong bus and left unaccompanied at a stop on Thursday says their elementary school called the police on him after he went to the school and became agitated.
Pastor C.J. Blair, 38, said he went to Brock Bridge Elementary School in Laurel after his children, 7-year-old Tatianna, a first-grader, and 5-year-old Gabrianna, who is in kindergarten, were not dropped off at their bus stop at the usual time.
Blair, who said he picks up the children every day after school, said he was told by other youngsters on the bus that his children might have been placed on a different bus.
He said that when he went to the school, he became upset when school officials told him that the missing children had indeed been placed on a different bus - whose route includes a stop across from their usual one - and then dropped off unaccompanied.
Blair said the girls were dropped off at their usual stop half an hour later than his usual 3:50 p.m. pickup time. By then, he had gone to the school searching for them. He said school officials told him that the children would not be dropped off if someone wasn't waiting for them. But school officials said that their policy does allow such dropoffs.
Bob Mosier, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County school system, confirmed much of Blair's account but said that he had been told police were called both to help look for the children and because Blair was very agitated.
Blair disputed the statement that police had been called to look for the children. He said the officers threatened to arrest him and told him that they had been summoned because he was upset: "They said they were not called for the children - they were called for me."
Justin Mulcahy, an Anne Arundel County Police spokesman, said a 911 call came in at 4:25 p.m. for "an adult male acting disorderly." He said the 911 report did not mention missing children. "It came to us as a disorderly conduct call."
No arrest was made and the incident ended at 5:04 p.m., he added.
Blair said his daughters were traumatized and are now afraid to go to school. He said he was humiliated by his treatment.
"Who ain't going to yell because their kids are missing?" he said in a telephone interview Friday. "How do I become the villain? Because they lost my children."
"I volunteer at the school five days a week," he said. "For me to be treated like that and for the police to treat me like that is off kilter. They disrespected me and disregarded my children, like my children didn't matter."
Mosier said the initial school bus mix-up "was clearly ours."
Through driver confusion, the Blair children were mistakenly reassigned to a different bus. The school contacted Blair's wife to tell her, but Mosier said she was left with the impression that no change had been made.
When he saw that his children were not on their usual bus, Blair drove to the school.
There, he was "very upset and very anxious, as any father would be," Mosier said. "You can imagine the fears that go through a parent. . . . However, he acts in such a way that the staff are fearful."
Blair, who described himself as an urban evangelist who preaches in schools and prisons, said that he had urged the school to call the police to look for the children but that the school demurred.
Once the school determined that the children had been dropped off, Blair went to look for them.
The children, meanwhile, could not get into their house and walked to the home of an acquaintance, who called Blair.
Blair retrieved the children and returned to the school for an explanation. It was then that he encountered the police, who had arrived in his absence.
Blair, who is African American, said he has complained to the Anne Arundel branch of the NAACP. The branch president, Jacqueline Boone Allsup, said, "I have contacted the superintendent of public schools asking for an investigation into this matter."
Mosier said: "There's nothing at this point that leads us to believe there is any racial aspect to this case."