86 incidents of Indiana children left on buses reported since 2009

6 incidents reported in Perry Township

INDIANAPOLIS - New numbers released from the Indiana Department of Education reveal 86 incidents of children left on school buses since a law went into effect July 1, 2009 that requires school districts and bus companies to report within five working days.

Some of the incidents involve more than one child.

Data released Friday to the Call 6 Investigators showed that the Metropolitan School District of Perry Township had six reported incidents of children left on school buses, more than any other school district in the state.

Lawrence Township schools have had four incidents since July 2009, while Brownsburg and School City of Hammond each had three incidents of children left on buses.

Perry Township schools terminated a bus driver and bus monitor Friday after a kindergarten student was left alone on a school bus Thursday after a route was completed for an estimated seven minutes.

Another bus driver heard the student still on the bus, and that’s how the mistake was discovered, district spokeswoman Paul Clegg said.

Transportation director Patrick Murphy said in a statement to Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney that bus drivers and monitors are thoroughly trained in safety rules to protect students.

"Failure to comply with district policies for post-trip inspection at schools is unacceptable," read the statement from Murphy. "In Perry Township Schools, there is a high expectation for our staff members. Post trip inspection policies will be reinforced during summer orientation and during training for all new hires."

In addition to the May 30 incident in Perry Township, a third-grader was left alone May 9 when a bus driver exited the bus to help a babysitter with a student who did not want to go to school, IDOE records show.

On Feb. 5, a driver left 25 students alone on board as he left the bus to assist students crossing the street.

The law doesn’t require school districts to disclose how long a child is left, but incidents statewide examined by the Call 6 Investigators showed times that ranged from a few minutes to several hours.

In February, the Call 6 Investigators reported the state law designed to prevent children from being left alone on school buses isn’t working exactly as intended.

Lawmakers thought the bill would boost transparency and, more importantly, cut down on the number of children left behind, but Kenney uncovered that’s not the case.

School districts are required to report only a few details, and the state has no punishment in place for schools who fail to disclose when a child is left alone on the bus.

Bad things can happen when children are left alone in vehicles. A 3-year old boy from Texas died in July 2012 after being left inside a hot day care van.

On a freezing January day in 2010, an 8-year-old girl in Tippecanoe County fell asleep on the bus, then woke up and wandered across the street to a nearby store. Police took her home.

In Center Grove, a police officer found a disoriented student wandering the street after she awoke on a parked bus. The driver involved in that incident was fired.

In February, State Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, who co-sponsored the bus bill, said he is open to tweaking the law.

"There's always room for improvement," said Behning. "No children should be left on a school bus, regardless of the situation, so yes, I am disappointed. You know one or two, I could understand, I think that’s a little high."

The Call 6 Investigators contacted school districts and bus companies to find out what happened to the bus drivers.

Although some wouldn't say, of those that did, 55 percent of bus drivers who left a child alone lost their jobs or resigned, and 45 percent were disciplined in some way and kept their jobs.

Though parents can't find out online if a child has been left by their bus driver, they can request that information directly from the state Department of Education.

Residents can also ask a school district whether a child’s bus driver has had any incidents.

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