Waterloo youth dropped off at wrong stop two days in a row - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo youth dropped off at wrong stop two days in a row


First Student Incorporated, the school bus company contracted by Waterloo Community Schools, is investigating how and why a five-year-old girl was let off at the wrong stop two days in a row. It happened this week -- the first week of school for kids at Lincoln Elementary in Waterloo.

Lestly Spencer is overwhelmed by the events of the last few days. She depends on teachers and daycare providers to help care for her young ones while she works during the day. But her trust was broken this week, when her five-year-old daughter was let off the bus by herself, in front of an empty house, two days in a row.

"How can they let a child off the bus without making sure an adult was waiting for that child?" Spencer wondered.

The first time happened Monday afternoon.  The five-year-old got off the bus, as directed, outside her home.  But her brothers and sisters were at daycare, and her mother was at work.  The girl tells us, her first instinct was to go to her daycare -- which is more than a mile away and would require her to cross several busy roads. It's a plan you might expect from a five year old, it's also a parent's worst nightmare.

Luckily, a neighbor saw the little girl alone in the front yard, took her in, and called her mother.

"She was like, I just herd the bus pull up and then I heard your baby screaming a little while after that," explained Spencer.

Spencer immediately contacted to the school, the bus company, and the district office. But the very next day, the same thing happened again.  That's when Spencer said she contacted KWWL -- against the district's wishes.

"I gave you Monday to resolve this, and you turn around Tuesday and do it again? Something has to be done," said Spencer.

Superintendent Dr. Gary Norris said, the district is taking this mistake very seriously.

"We were clearly in the wrong, and we're taking steps to correct that," he said.

This is not the first time First Student has dealt with this kind of problem. About the same time last year, an Evansdale girl was dropped off at the wrong stop, and went missing for more than an hour. In 2006, 13-year-old Donnisha Hill was kidnapped and murdered after getting off at the wrong stop.

The Waterloo Board of Education recently voted to extend its contract with First Student through the end of the school year. That decision came just a few days after the local bus director, Trent Dykstra, was arrested for tampering with safety records.

"I think we made the right decision at the time, but we will have to thoroughly evaluate it in December. Do we stay with First Student? And a lot will determine upon what they show us in the first six months," said Norris.

Norris believes the policies in place are good ones -- they simply were not followed this week. And he's hoping bus drivers do not make the same mistake again. Which begs the question -- isn't one time enough?

"One is too many," said Norris. "But when humans are involved, human error is."

It's little comfort for a worried mother.

"It's terrifying because I've never been in a situation like this before. And I hope I never have to be again," said Spencer.

First Student Incorporated released this statement Wednesday: "Unfortunately, a kindergarten student in Waterloo was dropped off at an incorrect stop on August 8 and August 9. On Monday, the driver dropped the student off with a relative, but it was not the location communicated by the parent. The students arrived home safely.

On Tuesday, the student's parent requested that their child be dropped off at a nearby daycare center. Despite both our dispatch team and the school principal informing the driver of the new drop off location, the student was let off at his house instead of the requested location. This is unacceptable, and the driver has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience experienced by both the student and the student's parent. We will work closely with the parent, as well as our drivers to ensure this does not happen again."

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