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September 04, 2007

Shaking With Fury

BusI don't even know where to begin. Two of my sons started their school year at preschool today. One in a 2-year-old class, one in a 4-year-old class. My 4-year-old, Jack, also started an afternoon special ed pre-school program run through the Montgomery County school district.

Because his afternoon class lets out at the exact same time as my kindergartener's school, both of them take the bus home. Jack, whose school lets out at 3:05 is supposed to be on a bus scheduled to reach my home at 4:14 p.m. This is a long time on the bus, but I figured that he would enjoy riding the bus, plus it would give him some time to zone out and process his day, plus maybe give him time for a little nap.

Today he could have taken a two and half hour nap.

That's right, my 4-year-old special ed child was on the bus until 5:45 p.m.

Here's how it went down: I was happily, eagerly waiting for the bus at 4:15. No bus. By 4:30 I was wondering where they were, but assumed that there might be some first day of school kinks to work through. It was 4:50 before someone from the transportation office called to see if Jack had made it home, because they'd gotten some calls from other parents, parents who were more in the know and knew to call the transportation department.

I was told that I could call the manager tomorrow after 5 p.m. to talk about it.

But that didn't help me because my kid still wasn't home. My very young, developmentally delayed child still wasn't home.

By 5:10, when he still wasn't home, I called back. Apparently there was a problem with a child in a wheelchair, which is why they were delayed. I found out what the problem was when the bus driver himself called a few minutes later. That kid's mom wasn't home when they got there to drop him off. And the bus driver didn't want to get too far away and have to drive all the way back, so he tried to go back FOUR times.

I sympathize with that kid. But I WAS home. I wanted my kid off the bus. I do believe that they should have taken care of that child. And I feel for that child's parents and understand that maybe sometimes things come up that are out of your control and you can't be where you need to be when you need to be. But that bus driver should have brought my child to me. And taken the other kids to their parents. And then taken the first kid home.

And the driver's explanation was that the kids needed name tags. (Which they do.) Apparently when they tried to ask the kids their names, they didn't all respond. My son was one of those that didn't respond. Which is part of the reason that he is in special ed. And did I mention that he's four years old?

At about 5:30 or so, someone, who I believe might have been the bus depot manager, called to apologize. Which was nice, but my son was still not home, so it didn't mean a lot.

Then the bus driver called again to tell me that he was in front of my house and asked where I was. So I stood in front of my house, with a full view of the empty street and told him he was mistaken. Then I had to argue with him. And the best part was that they had gone to my house number on another street and asked the occupants if he was their child.

And I thank God that they said that they don't have children because if they were bad people—and those people ARE out there—the bus driver would have given my child to them. And my child would probably have assumed that he was supposed to go with them and he would have obediently gone.

At 5:45 I flagged them down as they drove down the street. I was in tears as the bus driver tried to explain it away with words about name tags and non-responsive children.

Jack was on the bus for as long as he was at school.

When your child is on a bus, they are out in the ether. You can't go to rescue them. You can't know that they're okay. You have to trust that competent people are taking care of your child and will bring him or her home safely to you. I don't know what to do now because, for me, that trust has been shattered.

*****

This post is cross-posted at Jean's personal blog, Stimeyland.

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