It is only through good fortune that a 5-year-old boy returned home safely and was not injured or worse last week on the first day of school. But even though a tragedy was avoided, there are lessons to be learned from the mistakes that happened.
The kindergartner, who lives in Blasdell, attends Community Charter School in Buffalo. The West Seneca School District is responsible for transporting the students from his area who attend private, religious and charter schools outside the district. On Tuesday, a bus driver from that district mistakenly dropped the child off near the Garden Village Apartments in south Cheektowaga, miles away from his home.
A good Samaritan found the child, crying and frightened, and called police. But the child had no identification on him and was unable to communicate with officers. While the police were taking steps to try to identify the child, his mother got word from other sources and contacted police.
All ended well, but it could have ended in tragedy. The possibilities for such a tragedy are multiple and sufficiently grim that all school districts and all parents should take a lesson from this event.
School districts should immediately go over their policies and, if necessary, retrain their drivers. While it appears Tuesday’s incident was caused by a bus driver who deviated from his route and evidently confused this child with another of the same first name, there are lessons to be learned, by districts and drivers, alike.
Parents also have a role to play. Children should know their address and their phone number before they go to school. They should know they are safe with police officers.
Parents should also make sure their children carry some kind of identification that will allow police or others to help if they become lost. Those steps would not have kept this child from being let off the bus miles from his home, but it would have allowed police to reunite him with his family quickly, instead of more than two terrifying hours after they were summoned.
This was a terrible lapse, which the superintendent of the West Seneca School District immediately acknowledged. Fortunately, it is not something that happens very often, but given the risks from a child’s fear, unfamiliar streets, passing traffic and however many bad Samaritans are out there, this episode should be enough to set off alarm bells in schools and homes across Western New York.