Newport News kindergartener found wandering after being left at wrong bus stop

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News couple says their 5-year-old daughter won’t be taking the school bus –ever — after she was left at the wrong stop. 

A stranger found the little girl Tuesday afternoon wandering in the wintry weather, her parents said.

A Newport News Public Schools spokeswoman told 10 On Your Side the district has a system in place to get kids home safely, but she said protocols weren’t followed. The school has removed the bus driver from their duties.

Jackson Robertson said Tuesday afternoon was the first time his daughter, Hailey, rode the bus home from school. 

“We got a phone call from a lady saying that she had found our daughter wandering the streets,” Robertson said. 

A babysitter waited for Hailey at the bus stop near her home, but she never got off. That’s because the five-year-old had been let out at the wrong stop about three blocks away.  

Robertson said Hailey was walking alone in the cold and calling out her babysitter’s name for about 30 minutes before she was spotted by a good Samaritan. 

Hailey was wearing a bus ID card with her parents’ contact information on it.  

“I was scared to death. I was angry,” Robertson said. “It was unbelievable. You don’t ever think this is going to happen to your kid.” 

Newport News Public Schools released a statement that reads: 

“The safety of our students is a top priority in Newport News Public Schools. 
 
The school division utilizes a three-card system for preschool and kindergarten students who ride a school bus to and from school. Preschool and kindergarten students receive a lanyard with a bus ID card that must be worn each school day, and each student’s family is provided three matching cards with student information. The parent can keep a card and give the other cards to caretakers authorized to receive the preschool or kindergarten student. When the bus arrives at the stop, the card must be given to the driver to match with the child’s card. If there is no yellow card or a form of approved ID from the designated person at the stop, the student will be returned to school. 

Unfortunately, this protocol was not followed on Tuesday when a kindergarten student exited the bus at the wrong bus stop. As soon as the bus driver realized what occurred, the driver returned to the area with the student’s caregiver to look for the student. Tuesday was the first time the student rode the bus. 
 
A transportation department supervisor talked with the student’s parent yesterday. 
 
Protocols about the three-card system are included in all bus driver training and are reinforced during annual training. 
 
The bus driver involved in this incident has been removed from duty and the incident is under investigation.” 
 

– Newport News Public Schools

Robertson is glad the district took action, but he hopes this never happens again.  

“Something really bad could’ve happened and it could’ve been easily avoided,” Robertson said. 

NNPS Superintendent George Parker III also released a statement saying: 

“The safety and security of our students are of upmost importance. Newport News Public Schools utilizes a variety of safety measures which reflect our families’ high expectations for student safety and well-being. 
 
Each day, our transportation department safely transports over23,000 students to and from school. One longstanding protocol is the implementation of a three-card ID system to ensure that preschool and kindergarten students are released to a responsible party as they depart the bus. Yesterday, the ID system was not followed as directed, and unfortunately, a student was able to get off the school bus at the wrong bus stop. One incident like this is too many. 
 
We are fully investigating this incident and we are reviewing our procedures to ensure proper compliance. 
 
Our sincerest apologies are extended to the student and the family.” 

– NNPS Superintendent George Parker III

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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