Young boy caught in scheduling SNAFU - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Young boy caught in scheduling SNAFU

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

September 18, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A six year old boy was found wandering Albany streets after being dropped off by a school bus driver.

Dougherty County students got out of class early Wednesday, and when the special needs student was dropped off at home, his parents weren't there.

The parents say the bus driver didn't follow procedure for ensuring the child was left in someone's care.

This story has a happy ending, but John and Nakelya August worry if there is a next time, the outcome may be different. That's why they've asked the school system to have their bus drivers be more cautious, especially with special needs students.

John August got a ride home from Live Oak Elementary school from his mother. After Wednesday's adventure she wouldn't chance another early dismissal.

"My child had been wandering five blocks over the neighborhood. He got out at 12:30, we found out at three o'clock," said His mother, Nakelya August.

The Augusts didn't realize Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are early dismissal days for parent teacher conferences. The school sent home a notice, but they apparently didn't see it.

"There are multiple ways we inform parents about a change in school schedule and one of them is a letter that went home last week about the parent teacher conferences," said DCSS Public Information Director R. D. Harter.

The bus driver dropped off John in front of his home and the driver looked to see if the family's door was cracked, a mutually agreed sign that someone was there. The bus drove off, but six-year-old John was locked out. He began walking, his parents think toward Westgate where his grandmother lives.

"He could have been hit by a car, bitten by a dog, someone could have taken him and we wouldn't have known anything," said his mom.

Unable to communicate because of Autistic traits, he finally knocked on a stranger's door. "He walked up to someone's house and knocked on the door and I guess they saw that he's a special child so they took precautions and called police. Thank God for that because if he would of knocked on the wrong person's door I would never know what happened to my baby," his mother says.

Police took him back to the school where school officials alerted the Augusts about what had happened. They say the bus driver's actions are irresponsible.

"There's no excuse of why she left him, even though we weren't here, there's no excuse to leave him here there's a way you go about, you take them back to the school," said August.

School officials admit that is the policy, if drivers don't see a student's guardian or parent they are to return that student to the school. But they also say it's a parents responsibility to know when students are dismissed early.

The school puts out an annual calendar that includes information on early dismissals, individual schools also have programs to call parents, and it was also posted in the newspaper.

School officials tell us a new driver will be placed on that bus route in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again.

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