BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — Confusion and carelessness, that’s what one Bristol mother is saying led to her 6-year-old daughter wandering around their neighborhood after getting off the school bus Wednesday afternoon.
Sophie is a first grader at the Ellen Hubbell Elementary School. Her mother, Miranda, says either she or her boyfriend are always at the front door to greet Sophie when she gets off the school bus in the afternoons. On Wednesday, however, there was a substitute bus driver and the bus was running early. Sophie was let off and left to fend for herself.
“She went around back to our normal door that we usually use and she said she knocked and she didn’t see anyone so she came back out here and she looked both ways and then she started walking down, said Miranda Monte.
Miranda’s boyfriend was actually in the building at the time but he was walking down the stairs as as Sophie was walking heading around the building. As he waited, assuming the bus hadn’t arrive yet, Sophie wandered away.
A neighbor spotted Sophie about 20 minutes later and brought her to the building’s supervisor, who then called Miranda at work.
“I’ve been crying all morning panicking. I don’t want her to go to school. I can’t even go to work now without panicking,” said Miranda.
Miranda called the school and the bus company. Both told her is it is the school district’s policy to allow any child in kindergarten and up to get off the bus alone, without someone there to meet them. They said the same to News 8 on Thursday afternoon.
“We have 8,000 students in this district. We have 3,800 bus stops and we expect parents to make arrangements for their children to have safe passage when they get off the school bus to their home,” said Dr. Sue Moreau, Deputy Superintendent.
Miranda says exceptions need to be made. Her biggest concern is she doesn’t feel her neighborhood is safe. A quick check of the sex offender registry and we found three offenders within a few blocks from their home. When asked if this is reason to reconsider their policies the district gave this response:
“As a parent, which I am, I would want to make sure if I lived in a neighborhood like that I was vigilant about being ready to pick up my child when they got off the school bus. It is up to the parent to make sure their child is safe,” said Moreau.
Miranda says that’s unacceptable and wants other parents to be aware of the situation.
“I want a new procedure put in place to protect children from getting off the school bus,” said Miranda.
The bus company told News 8 that the substitute driver was removed from service while they investigate the concern, but stress it appears the driver was simply following the district’s policies.