Two children left on bus, headstart investigates

By Gus Bode

Driver,monitor face possible felony charges after incident Monday

A bus monitor was terminated and a driver suspended one day after they failed to drop off two children left on a Headstart bus Monday.

Cathy Reed, director of the SIUC Headstart said the organization is continuing to evaluate why the two children were left on the bus. She added that they have done their best to understand the concerns of parents who expressed their concerns Tuesday.

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A press conference took place Tuesday to discuss the incident where two children were left on the bus after both the bus driver and the bus monitor completed their run. The organization said they are listening to all of the concerns expressed by parents of Headstart children.

According to Reed, the children remained on the bus approximately 30 to 40 minutes after it arrived at the Murphysboro center. One child remained strapped in and asleep during this period. The other child was no longer in restraints and was discovered walking the aisles of the bus.

It was also reported that the monitor was let off of the run early due to illness, leaving only the driver to watch over the run. There are only six or seven children on the entire run according to Reed and the children involved were seated in the second and third seats.

There will be meetings held to discuss transportation procedures as well as further training for employees in the Headstart program. Reed said they would also have a meeting to discuss concerns with families. One of these meetings will take place 6 p.m. Thursday at the Murphysboro Center where the children were left.

The meeting is primarily for parents of those who pick-up and drop-off their children at the center. Because of the suspension, these families are required to deliver their children to the Carbondale Headstart until a replacement for the driver is found.

The driver and monitor could be charged with as much as a Class 4 Felony, according to a SIUC Head Start drivers and monitors procedural handout for post-trip actions. However, no charges were filed against the employees for the incident.

Bus drivers and monitors receive specific training, which obligates them to follow five steps before emptying the bus at the end of their run. One of these steps requires them to walk the entire length of the bus, checking in and under all seats for children that may have been left on the bus.

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Vice Chancellor for Diversity Seymour Bryson, who oversees the program, added that monitors and drivers go through an extensive amount of training throughout each school year. During the daily process, they are asked to maintain a checklist of each run, record any problems and check off each child as they are dropped off.

“The bus monitors are required to keep a log of when each child gets on and off the bus and check each seat to make sure every child is off the bus,” Bryson said. “It is evident that the monitor did not follow this procedure.

“And this is a matter of poor judgment.”

She added that the dismissal process was much more difficult because she is a civil service employee. Because her union affiliation, there are certain procedures they must go through before dismissing the driver. She had been driving for 30 years, seven of those with SIUC Headstart program.

According to Reed, this is the first time a situation of this nature has taken place at the organization, which has existed for the past 60 years. There are only six Headstart organizations in the state of Illinois, which operate with the goal of preparing low-income children for their academic careers.

“We happen to take our responsibility of providing care for children very seriously,” Bryson said. “And we truly regret what happened.”

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