Broward County began the school year with high expectations for their bus service. The district purchased new buses and brought on new drivers in hopes of raising their level of service. Throughout the first few weeks of the previous school year, transportation officials were inundated with complaints from parents about bus delays and children getting dropped off at the wrong location. Unfortunately, a major error on the first day of school cost the county’s bus safety another black eye even before the school year was in full swing.
Kids Left at Wrong Stop, in Wrong City
The Huffington Post reports that seven students between the ages of 10 and 13 were dropped off in the wrong city on the first day at Forest Glen Middle School. Instead of getting dropped off at their Coral Springs stop just a few minutes from the school, the students got off the bus seven miles away in Pompano Beach. The students were left near Broward Health North Hospital in Pompano Beach, according to NBC Miami.
The students involved in the incident told the bus driver he was going the wrong way, but he refused to stop, the Huffington Post reported. One of the students contacted her father by cell phone. The parent asked to talk to the bus driver, but the students said the bus driver refused to take the phone. As one might suspect, many of the parents of the students have called the school district to complain about the incident.
“I’m totally frustrated, mad, and angry,” Wilson Cisneros, the parent of one of the students, told the Huffington Post. “I just can’t believe a person would just drop a child off in the street basically to just fend for herself.”
Cisneros also told NBC Miami that his daughter Samantha cried about the incident when she arrived home that evening. He added that Samantha does not feel comfortable riding the bus again. He wasn’t sure why the bus driver chose to let the children off at a hospital, but some parents speculated that the driver might have seen the hospital as a safe place for the drop-off.
One Parent to Sue District
In another report by NBC Miami, a parent stated she plans to sue the school district over the incident. Tracy Mondry explained she wanted to make an example of the district and bring this problem to light for other parents. She told NBC Miami, “When a child says to you, ‘It’s not my stop, you missed my stop,’ acknowledge it.” Mondry said there is footage from inside the school bus that proves the driver ignored the children.
The school district has not released the video footage to the general public, stating it is part of an ongoing investigation at this time. The district released the following statement, “We are investigating this incident. Transportation Department representatives reached out to the parents/families of the students this evening. We apologize to the students and families impacted by this incident. The safety and security of our students is our highest priority.”
The district has also released a statement saying the students did not recognize their correct stop on the ride that day. According to the department, the driver told students to remain on the bus until he could return them to the appropriate stop. However, the students chose to exit the bus at the Pompano Beach stop. The students said the driver yelled at them to get off the bus when he reached the hospital at Pompano Beach.
Good Intentions, Bad Start
This is hardly the start Broward County was hoping for when it kicked off the newest school year. NBC South Florida reported that the district went to great lengths over the summer to improve its bus service. Last year, parents and students complained that delays, no-show buses, and kids dropped off at the wrong stops for a number of weeks after the school year began.
The district began making preparations early to ensure those same mistakes didn’t happen again this year. They added 50 new buses to their fleet with more on the way. The district also hired 100 new drivers, to ensure there would not be a shortage of buses on the road to get kids safely to and from school daily. Routes were reconfigured to prevent delays and no-shows, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“It is looking good,” Pat Snell, director of transportation for the district, told the Sun-Sentinel last month. “Last year, we did have a shortage of bus drivers. We don’t anticipate that to be a problem this year. We are fine for the opening of school.”
Drivers began making dry runs of their routes days before school started, to ensure that the first day went as smoothly as possible. Veteran drivers reported receiving bus passes much earlier this year – a sign that the system might be boasting a better organization system than in the past.
Robert Runcie, superintendent for Broward County, told NBC South Florida district transportation was ready to roll when the new school year kicked off. Runcie even advised parents who were concerned about sending kids to school on the bus, “You know what, you should have no concerns, we’re ready, you should trust the system.”
Sadly, things didn’t turn out quite as planned for either the school district or a handful of middle school students and their parents. Although the rest of the first day appeared to go quite smoothly for the district’s bus system, the seven children dropped off in a strange city will probably be the story that gets retold and remembered for many months to come.
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