Mother not notified after child falls asleep on bus, misses drop-off

Mother not notified after child falls asleep on bus, misses drop-off
Photo credit: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A mother is upset she was not notified her daughter woke up on a Lamar County school bus after it had dropped off children at her school on Tuesday.

Ashley Fortenberry said her 8-year-old daughter called her Tuesday afternoon and said she fell asleep on the bus ride to Oak Grove Lower Elementary School and woke up while the bus was on another route nearly two hours later.

"It startled me, and I stopped everything I was doing and had a conversation with her," said Fortenberry. "The first time my kids rode the bus was this year, so it was all new and nerve-wracking to us."

Fortenberry said her daughter boarded the bus at 6:45 a.m. and was checked into school by a staff member at 8:24 a.m. The bell rings at Oak Grove Lower at 7:30 a.m.

"When I checked 'Active Parents' for attendance, I saw she was checked in at 8:24 with an unexcused tardy, and that startled me as well, because she was in their care, their responsibility," said Fortenberry.

WDAM 7 reached out to the Lamar County School District about the incident. Superintendent Tess Smith said the student was found on the bus at the conclusion of the first route and the driver contacted the school and brought her back.

While it is policy for the school to contact a parent, Smith said the staff member who checked in Fortenberry's daughter neglected to notify the school administration, so that parent contact did not occur.

"When she called and informed me of that, I should have been 'well yeah, baby. I know. The school contacted me this morning.' But, I didn't hear from anyone, so it was startling to me,"  Fortenberry said.

Smith said the staff member has been reprimanded and all office staff at the school have been updated on the process.

She said at no point was the student unsupervised or in an unsafe situation. Fortenberry said she is thankful for that, but is still concerned she was not notified.

"I don't know if the bus driver checks the bus after she parks," said Fortenberry. "With the weather the way it's been, if it was hotter, it could have been worse. She is a very sensitive child, so just imagining what all she could have went through and thought about is very nerve-wracking."

According to the school district, this is the process bus drivers are to follow:

  • Drivers clear their buses at the end of each route.
  • If a student is found, they contact the school.
  • The school then contacts the parent.
  • The parent can meet the bus or allow the student to continue on the bus until can be return to school.
  • If returned to school a staff member escorts student from bus to the building.