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Mix-up lands first grader on wrong bus, wrong stop

Published February 02. 2010 05:00PM

A Palmerton man is upset over an incident last week in which his son was misplaced on a bus and later dropped off at the wrong home.

In an e-mail to the TIMES NEWS, Jason Foit of Palmerton said his son, a first-grade student at the Parkside Education Center, was put on the wrong bus by his teacher after school last Wednesday.

Foit said the bus driver, who didn't have a list of which children were to be added to the bus route, incorrectly transported his child to a home believed to be Foit's house.

As a result, Foit said his child went missing for about 40 minutes until he was found.

"Both the Palmerton (Area) School (District) and the bus company are at fault; the safety of the children is at risk," Foit said. "My son was missing, and the bus company, who was to provide safety to all children, was not able to locate my son."

Contacted this morning, district Superintendent Carol Boyce confirmed that the student was, in fact, placed on the wrong bus by his teacher.

"Internally, when we get a request from a family to change the bus route, they notify the secretary in the building, who notifies the bus company," Boyce said. "The district is in coordination with the bus company, and the secretary notifies the teacher that it was to be effective today."

However, instead of reading the entire note, Boyce said the teacher inadvertently put the student on the wrong bus several days earlier than it should have taken place.

"As soon as we found out about it, we tracked backward, and found that the child had actually walked to his own house and he was standing on his porch," she said. "Internally, we are seeing if there are ways we can tighten up to see that these kinds of things don't happen."

Boyce said the situation was the first of its kind during her tenure in the district.

"This is the first time in two years that I've been here that anything like this has happened," she said. "When you consider the tens of thousands of miles and the number of bus routes that we have every day, it's pretty remarkable."

The safety of every student is of paramount importance to the district, Boyce said.

"However, we do not take this lightly," she said. "Every child is important to all of us."

Contacted this morning, Leon George, president of Leon A. George School Buses, Inc., told the TIMES NEWS how the situation unfolded.

"Once we found out that the student was missing by the regular bus driver, slightly prior to getting to his regular bus stop, the baby sitter was waiting there for the child at the baby sitter's location," George said. "Once we got that call, through that driver and other students on the bus, we pinpointed where the student was put."

However, George said that bus had already completed the route.

"We went to PowerSchool, pulled up the parents name, and we're pretty sure now the student would have gotten to his house," he said. "That bus change was supposed to be (today), and this was last Wednesday."

George said the matter was an issue of "miscommunication."

"We didn't give notice to the driver yet because it wasn't supposed to start yet," he said. "The school put him on the wrong bus, so the driver had no idea."

At that, George said they attempted to contact the Foits, but didn't get an answer. So, he said they left a voice mail that said his son was put on the wrong bus, George said.

"When he returned the call, he (Foit) was (verbally) violent," he said. "He proved to be no help whatsoever."

Despite that, George said the top priority was to locate the child.

"After that, he made some threats, hung up the phone, and we continued to use our sources," he said. "We had our mechanic pull the video from the bus that we were sure he (the student) went on."

Through that, George said the child was able to be identified.

"The regular driver who knows the student came in, pulled up the video, and identified that he (the student) was positively there," he said. "We knew where he was, was sure where he went, and the mechanic and the bus driver went to look for him and found him standing on his front porch."

From there, George said the child was returned to his father.

"Once the child was found, he was brought back to the bus station and reunited with his father," he said. "If the father would have been receptive to us, I believe we could have resolved it quicker."

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