Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. A school bus mix-up leaves a 4-year-old boy wandering the streets by himself. WJZ first broke this troubling story.
Now, Mike Hellgren investigates how it happened and what’s being done about it.
After promising swift and decisive action, Baltimore County Schools have disciplined three employees in connection with the incident.
There are calls for action after a school bus snafu that had Baltimore County school leaders under fire and apologizing.
“We’re sorry that little Pierre got on the wrong bus, and we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that does not happen to another student again,” said Deputy Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools Dr. Renee Foose.
Pierre is the 4-year-old who attends Hernwood Elementary and had a nightmare ride home. He was placed on a bus when he doesn’t even ride one, then driven to and dropped off in a strange neighborhood where a woman found him in tears, called the school and got him reunited with his mom.
“I’m mortified that this could happen to a small child like that,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
“There were safeguards in place before,” Foose said. “What happened was we had a breakdown in our process.”
So what are those safeguards? If a bus driver does not recognize a student, he’s returned to the school. The youngest students are tagged with their name, bus number and color codes. New students are always introduced to the bus driver and color codes separate car and bus riders.
“I do believe that this was an isolated incident and I’m confident that they’re going to review their policies and procedures to make sure this does not happen again,” Kamenetz said.
“As far as picking the kids up from school, if you send someone out like that, they’re very strict with that,” Karen Young, a parent, said. “They would not release those children unless a parent was there. And if it was someone other than a parent, they would have to show IDs. So this really surprised me. I think this was just a little fluke.”
Pierre’s mother, Kyra Cottie, told WJZ she wants her son out of Hernwood.
“He’s in their care, and nobody knew where he was,” she said.
Cottie also said she has a lot of questions and wants a meeting with the superintendent.
Citing privacy concerns, the school system has not released the names or titles of those disciplined.