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December 6, 2002

4-year-old deaf student left alone on school bus

From: Montgomery Independent, AL - 06 Dec 2002

The Associated Press
12/6/02 1:48 AM

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- A 4-year-old deaf student was left alone on a school bus for several hours, and the driver has been suspended, officials said.

The child, described by Mobile County schools superintendent Harold Dodge as "multi-handicapped," was found by a manager of a bus barn late Thursday morning, sitting in the driver's seat.

The windshield wipers were pumping and the headlights were shining, Dodge said. "He wasn't distraught or screaming or whatever. He was a great camper."

The child first boarded the bus Thursday around 7:15 a.m. at his regular stop in the Bayou La Batre area, Dodge said. But when the bus reached the Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind in west Mobile, the boy did not get off.

"We just assumed he was absent," Principal Mary Lou Casey told the Mobile Register. "I'm totally devastated. There's no excuse for what happened."

School bus drivers are required to inspect their buses for students at the end of each trip, according to the state's bus driver handbook.

In Mobile County, the driver must remove a dangling card from the front of the bus, walk to the back of the bus and stick the card in the back window.

Apparently, that was not done Thursday on that bus. The card was never removed, Dodge said.

A bus driver, identified by Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Paul Tate as Wanda Friday, was placed on paid suspension, Dodge said.

The driver was scheduled for a hearing Friday, after which Dodge said he would make a recommendation concerning the future of her employment. She was not available for comment Thursday.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.