One child being dropped off by his bus driver at the wrong house could be considered an accident, but what is it called when three children are dropped off at the wrong location in a matter of weeks?
Parents are outraged at what they are calling inexcusable carelessness on the part of Durham School Services, the company which handles bus transportation for the Warren County School System.
Director of Schools Bobby Cox says he understands why parents are upset and appropriate action has been taken.
“It’s something that’s been brought to our attention, it’s been addressed, and it’s been handled properly,” said Cox. “You have to get kids dropped off at the right place. These are the kinds of things that are hard to excuse and it’s certainly something we’ll take into consideration when it’s time to renew Durham’s contract.”
Durham operates the school system’s buses on a third-party contract similar to the way Kelly Services handles substitute teachers as a third-party administrator. Cox said the school system is in the second year of a three-year contract with Durham, but the school system can opt out of the contract after this year.
The problems arose about three weeks ago when Corey Farley says his two children, ages 6 and 7 were left at the wrong apartment complex. A similar situation took place Thursday when special-needs student Gavin Herrin, son of Shala Wohlgemuth and Doug Herrin, was dropped off at an empty house on Grove Road. Gavin, 13, has Down Syndrome, moderate hearing disabilities, and limited communication skills.
Gavin normally is dropped off at this grandfather’s house, but his grandfather had been admitted to the hospital and was not at home. Gavin’s father and stepmother called the bus shed early in the day to tell them Gavin would need to be brought to their home, which is approximately two miles from the grandfather’s home.
“After they were told not to leave him at his grandfather's house because his grandfather was in the hospital, he was let off the bus, unattended, in the cold, 35 degrees, for almost an hour,” said Wohlgemuth. “This area is very rural, with many dangers for a child like Gavin. The possibility of what could have happened to that child are endless. He was left on a farm. There were cars, tractors, a pond, not to mention other things. He’s just not capable of being by himself like that. He does not respond when his name is called. We are blessed he was found safe.”
Wohlgemuth said she spoke to someone at the bus shed who said they had told the driver where Gavin should be dropped off. “They said the driver had a family emergency and they had a substitute driver. The aide or monitor on the bus was the same monitor as every day. If someone is there waiting on him every day and all the sudden no one is there, did they not wonder why? They just dumped him off with no one there.”
Corey Farley is also angry at the bus service after his kids were somehow transferred to a different bus in the middle of town and dropped off at the wrong apartment complex.
“They were put on the right bus at West Elementary,” said Farley. “But during the route, the bus stopped and my kids were changed to a different bus. Why this happened, I don’t know. And I don’t know where it happened. The only thing I was told is it was at a service station. Then my kids were taken to Rosewood Apartments and dropped off. My son even told the bus driver that he didn’t live there, but he was dropped off anyway.”
Farley says his children were dropped off at Rosewood Apartments on Old Smithville Highway. They were supposed to go to Green Acres Apartments on Vinewood Drive.
“They could have been kidnapped. They could have been killed,” said Farley. “I’ve been told it was a mistake and they’re sorry about it, but that’s not good enough for me when they take my kids off the right bus with no authority and then drop them off at the wrong place. If I did something like that, they’d put me behind bars.”
Cox said he was informed the bus driver turned around and picked up the children after initially pulling off and seeing the children waving for the bus to come back.
Questions to Durham School Services manager Brian Riley were referred to Durham’s corporate media relations representatives, to whom calls went unanswered.
While Durham is responsible for hiring and firing its employees, Cox said an employee was terminated as a result of the Thursday incident.
“We’re going to take action and address these issues as soon as we find out about them,” said Cox.