Driver fired after student with special needs forgotten on school bus for 6 hours
Published Thursday, February 2, 2017 9:03AM EST
A Toronto school bus driver has been fired after a high school student with special needs was forgotten on a bus for more than six hours last week.
Laura Mastache told CTV Toronto on Wednesday that her 19-year-old daughter Wendy been picked up by the school bus headed to York Humber High School on the morning of Jan. 23, but that she never made it to class that day.
Wendy had been marked absent during attendance that morning but her mother didn’t receive an automated phone call about the absence because her daughter is over the age of 18. Laura Mastache told CTV Toronto she didn’t receive a call from the school until around 3 p.m. that day after Wendy suddenly showed up after classes.
Mastache said she believes her daughter had been locked inside the school bus for more than six hours after the driver failed to check to see if anyone was still on the bus after dropping off the kids at the school.
Wendy is the only student on her bus that is dropped off at a second separate entrance for students of a developmental disability program offered at the school, according to her mother. Wendy has autism, epilepsy and developmental delays, which prevent her from reading, writing and communicating effectively.
“I don’t know what happened in that time. I don’t know if she had a convulsion. I don’t know if she passed out because she didn’t drink anything, she didn’t eat anything,” Mastache said. “It was cold that day. I don’t know what she went through.”
Mastache said she confronted the bus driver about what happened when her daughter was dropped off at her home that afternoon.
“They send my daughter home on the same school bus without even investigating. It’s really confusing,” she said. “The bus driver said, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything. I’m sorry.’ That’s it.”
Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird told CTV Toronto on Wednesday that what happened was unacceptable. He also said the school has adjusted its policy with respect to automated attendance calls. Under the new system, families of students with special needs will receive an automated call if they’re absent, regardless of age.
“We’ve changed it so that not only are these automated or manual calls going out to kids of all ages at this specific school but all similar schools across the TDSB,” Bird said.
As for the school bus driver, the contracted company responsible for the bus, Stock Transportation, issued a statement on Wednesday to CP24 about the incident.
"Our drivers are required to conduct a child check to look for students at the end of each route. In this instance, the procedure was not followed and the driver has been terminated," the statement said.
Toronto police were called to investigate the matter but no criminal charges have been laid. The police suggested that Wendy be taken to hospital for a medical examination because she hadn’t eaten that day and spent hours on a cold bus.
Mastache said that although she appreciates the TDSB changing its policy on automated attendance phone calls, her daughter is now traumatized by the ordeal.
“She’s scared to get on the bus now,” Mastache explained. “If I mention school, she covers her face and she cries and shakes her head, ‘No.’”
Wendy refused to attend school for more than a week. She finally returned to her classes on Wednesday.
Mastache said the TDSB has offered her daughter alternative transportation methods, such as a taxi or a van. She said it’s important for Wendy to have a regular daily schedule.
“Autistic kids they have their routines. She has her routines. She wakes up, has her breakfast, gets on the bus, goes to school, gets off the bus and goes to classes and then comes back,” Mastache said.
With files from CTV Toronto and CP24