KINGSTON — A 5-year-old kindergarten student was deliberately kept on the school bus when parents were not at the bus stop Tuesday, following both legal mandate and district policy, Wyoming Valley West Transportation Director Kim Alfano said Wednesday.
Bria Barnett made headlines when her parents complained the child was left on the bus for up to one hour on her way home from Third Avenue Elementary. They also said the bus failed to pick up Bria in the morning.
Alfano said she had talked to the bus company contracted to run that route, Meyers Bus Company, and to the parents, but was still investigating the incidents. She said the bus company insisted the driver followed protocol by keeping Bria and one other student on the bus when parents for the two children were not at the bus stop.
But Bria’s mother, Beth, says she and her husband were at the stop waiting for their daughter Tuesday afternoon.
The Barnetts say they have a crossing guard — an employee of Kingston Borough, not the district — as a witness to confirm their version of events.
“The whole thing is just frustrating,” said Beth. “For the district to say we weren’t there when we were there is just annoying.”
The Barnetts and Alfano do agree on one thing.
The bus missed Bria in the morning, forcing her parents to drive her to class.
“It was the first day of school and some of our stops are a little different for different schools,” said Alfano.
Regarding the afternoon incident, she said “I was told by the bus company that the student was on the bus, and when they got to the bus stop the mother was not there. As is our protocol, we do not let kindergarten or first-grade students off the bus without a family member there. Kindergarten is the only one we’re required not to let them off, but we take the extra precaution of doing the same with first grade.
“The driver said the mom was not there, so she proceeded to do her route. What happens then is that, once they finish their route they will drive back to see if the parent is there. In between, while she was running the route, I got a call from the principal telling me ‘Bria was not dropped off.’ I contacted the bus company and was told she was on the bus.”
Alfano said that, according to the driver, the child was never left alone on the bus. “The child was right behind the bus driver once she realized what had happened.”
In this case, Bria was dropped off when the bus came back to the stop. But in a worst-case scenario, a child would still never be left alone on a bus as long as protocol is followed. A driver is required to walk the length of the bus to make sure no one is still aboard after routes are completed.
“They do a bus check, absolutely,” Alfano said. “They go row by row, and they check under the seats.”
Alfano said she had tried to contact a crossing guard Wednesday to get additional details, but the guard was unavailable. “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
‘Pointed fingers at us’
Beth Barnett said she called the district Wednesday morning to inquire about what happened the day before.
“They were rude,” Barnett said. “They pointed fingers at us saying that the bus driver told them no one was there.”
She continued: “I have GPS on my phone to pinpoint my location. In fact, myself, my husband (Troy) and Bria’s aunt were at the bus stop at Warren Avenue and East Dorrance Street.”
Troy Barnett said Tuesday he spoke to a crossing guard, and he was told his daughter’s bus had already stopped.
Beth clarified that point Wednesday.
“My husband walked to the Rutter Avenue stop, the bus stop before Warren Avenue and East Dorrance Street, and spoke to the crossing guard at that stop,” Beth said. “The crossing guard told my husband that his daughter’s bus stopped at Rutter Avenue while myself (Beth) and Bria’s aunt waited at the Warren Avenue/ East Dorrance Street stop.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes