Mother voices concern after bus driver left children at stop unsupervised

A Toronto-area mother is demanding changes after her two school-aged children were left unattended at a school bus drop-off.

Global News isn’t revealing the mother’s identity to protect the children’s identities.

On Monday, she said her four-year-old and six-year-old children boarded the bus at school as usual, but it allegedly arrived at the stop earlier than expected.

The children were supposed to be met by their day-care provider but she had not yet arrived at the stop to pick them up.

“The bus driver proceeded to drop everybody off as per usual,” she said.

“Nobody confirmed who was here for my kids, if anyone was here for my kids … they got off the bus and there were many other kids and parents around and they were overwhelmed and stood there and didn’t know what to do.”

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According to the Toronto Student Transportation Group, an initiative that helps facilitate transportation the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, there are drop-off protocols in place that are meant to safeguard young students at the drop-off at the end of the day and no student should ever be dropped off without supervision.

This incident was a breach of their drop-off protocol, they stated.

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The mother said her children crossed a busy street and began heading to their home daycare.

“At home daycare – the guardian – she opened the door … to meet them at the bus stop and she open the door and they were both standing there, knocking on the door and she was just shocked,” the mother said.

The mother said the children had purple tags on their backpacks indicating they are part of the Purple Equals Parent program which is meant to remind drivers to ask the student if they see their parent or guardian at the stop.

“If (there is no one there) the driver is then instructed to keep them on the bus or either come back to the stop later or return the students back to school,” said Kevin Hodgkinson, general manager of the Toronto Student Transportation Group.

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“That’s the protocol and that should have happened.”

Hodgkinson said an investigation is now underway to determine why the kids were dropped off without confirmation that a guardian was there.

Read more: Toronto school board writes to Ford government warning programs could be cut

“There were 50 students getting off at this location with parents milling about at the drop-off. We are not sure if the driver thought the parent was there but regardless it’s their responsibility,” he said.

In a statement, Dan Maradin, vice-president of operations for Switzer-CARTY Transportation Services Inc. said he was thankful to learn the students arrived at their destination safely.

He said according to their GPS records, the bus arrived on time that afternoon.

“Upon learning of the incident, we investigated and interviewed our driver and as a result assigned this route to another driver. We sent a member of our Safety and Training team to the stop to supervise unloading to ensure everything went well at the stop,” the statement said.

Click to play video: 'Peel District school board investigates after children wander off school property'

Peel District school board investigates after children wander off school property

The mother decided to post about what happened on a local parent group on Facebook.

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“I posted it on social media on a local mom’s group and I asked is this normal? Does this happen? and other moms proceeded to reply with similar stories,” the mother said.

She said her children were shaken after Monday’s events.

“They just bawled their eyes out. They were scared,” she said, adding she and her husband have taken their children off the bus for the time being.

“Both my husband and I were really stressed. … The system needs to be looked at completely differently.”

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