Parents furious after children left alone to wait for pick up

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Austin, 7 and Keirstin Rodgers, 9, of Tracadie were dropped off from a summer program and left alone by a bus driver last week.

Martin Rodgers of Tracadie said he got the scare of his life last Friday.

Rodgers arrived at Sherwood Elementary School in Charlottetown to find his two children, 7 and 9 years old, crying.

They had spent the day in the Canadian Red Cross’s week-long swim program. He arrived at 4:12 p.m., expecting to be early for the scheduled 4:20 p.m. drop off.

He pulled into the parking lot and saw his kids under a tree by themselves, seeking shade from the hot day. They are crying.

Rodgers said the bus driver dropped them off, told them to find some shade under a tree and left them there alone.

No one knows how long the two young children were left alone but the English Language School Board said it wouldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.

“I was scared,’’ Rodgers said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never been so scared and so mad at the same time in my life.’’

Scared because of what could have happened, he said. Two young children left alone in an unfamiliar setting.

Nicole Rodgers, Martin’s wife, said a million things went through her head when he called and told her what happened.

“Anything could have happened,’’ Nicole said. “There are predators out there. A school parking lot is the perfect place to pick up two kids, especially when you see them crying and scared. When he filled me in on what happened I was shaking. They could have been abducted, I might never have seen them again. Everything goes through your head.’’

Nicole said her daughter told her they were scared and that she didn’t know what to do — stay in an empty parking lot or seek help from neighbours in the area.

Martin and Nicole said there’s no excuse for a bus driver to drop two young children off without making sure someone was there to pick them up.

Jim Cummings, director of corporate services for the English Language School Board, said on Friday the bus was running a little early.

“The driver indicated the students were dropped off at Sherwood school in a safe location,’’ Cummings said. “The parents were going to be there to pick them up. It was less than 10 minutes. It was deemed to be a safe drop-off location.’’

Cummings said the school board is in ongoing talks with the Red Cross, which contracted the school buses, to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Martin and Nicole want the bus driver disciplined but Cummings would not comment on the matter.

“That would be an internal issue. We don’t get into discussing that type of thing,’’ Cummings said.

Laura Montigny, provincial director for the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Red Cross, said an incident report was filed immediately.

“We are certainly looking at steps to take and this is never going to happen again,’’ Montigny said.

The Red Cross is talking to the school board about potential changes to that effect. A new policy could see parents told to be at the pickup/dropoff locations at least 30 minutes ahead of time (current policy is 10 minutes), Red Cross staff, which are on the buses for the first few days would be required to accompany the kids the entire week and if the bus driver notices there is no one there to pick up children, he or she is to call a Red Cross staff member right away.

Montigny said the bus driver in this incident did call but didn’t call when he should have. Martin and Nicole contend that phone call never happened.

Montigny said she spoke with Martin on Friday about the incident and has met with the couple since then.

The school board offered to have the bus driver apologize but Martin said he isn’t interested in an apology and declined the offer.

“He put my kids’ lives in danger,’’ Martin Rodgers said.

Montigny said both the Red Cross and the school board is taking this incident very seriously.

“It will never happen again,’’ she said emphatically.

Organizations: Red Cross, Sherwood Elementary School, English Language School Board

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Asian Mama
    July 13, 2014 - 19:19

    Wow, how embarrassing for the parents to have their children behave in this manner! What was wrong with them, that they have trained them so poorly that they were unable to deal with a minor change in routine without worrying? These parents should be hiding themselves in shame, not parading their foolishness in front of the world.

  • Kris
    July 11, 2014 - 23:17

    Sorry, but I can't see how keeping the kids so sheltered is helpful. Teach your children to be savvy, skeptical and self-sufficient. The best way to protect them is to give them the skills to protect themselves.

  • Wilma Fingerdoo
    July 11, 2014 - 21:49

    What's with the scowling faces of the kids in the picture? I guess they buy into their parents paranoia that they were mistreated. And way to go mom and dad with putting photos, ages, and addresses of your children out on the internet for all the world to see. This isn't about the safety of these children. Sitting on grass for a 10 minute bus layover outside of a school is less dangerous than driving them anywhere. These parents only want attention because someone didn't follow their perfect schedule. They are raising a stink and slandering the reputation of this bus driver and that is so very wrong. To raise children with such fear is setting them up for a lifetime of anxiety disorders. These parents need to be investigated, not the bus driver or Red Cross. Helping these kids now will save them from years of counseling and therapy they will need with such inappropriate responses to minor problems. Scared and crying? Because they had to wait 10 minutes? Oh, the humanity!

  • Realist
    July 11, 2014 - 14:21

    So, helicopter parents your kids names and ages just got blasted on the internet with their picture. Don't you realize all the pervs will now be googling your address to immediately come abduct them. I am being facetious, of course, but really - this article is probably presenting more danger (albeit slight) than your kids 8 minutes alone ever would have.

  • Realist
    July 11, 2014 - 14:14

    So, helicopter parents your kids names and ages just got blasted on the internet with their picture. Don't you realize all the pervs will now be googling your address to immediately come abduct them. I am being facetious, of course, but really - this article is probably presenting more danger (albeit slight) than your kids 8 minutes alone ever would have.

  • Marcos
    July 11, 2014 - 14:07

    I'm not being funny but most 'normal' 7 and 9 yo kids in England walk to school themselves everyday and no one cares. If a child cant sit outside unaccompanied for 10 mins at 7yo, I think somethings is very wrong with the way the child has been brought up.

  • Marge Scowcroft
    July 11, 2014 - 13:14

    This is child abuse, and the authorities should get involved. No, not the bus driver. The parents. They are mentally abusing these children if they are teaching them that the world is this dangerous. This is just setting the children up for destructive rebellion later on; and with today's zero-tolerance policies that's a recipe for disaster. Best case scenarios they've mentally handicapped there children to live in the real world. I feel sad for these children, sad for the bus driver, and sad for everyone else who's world got a little bit smaller because these parents have pushed the panic button.

  • Just Me
    July 11, 2014 - 08:14

    Ummm not fair to be calling people helicopter parents because they care about their children's safety! Just because an abduction or something awful hasn't happened on PEI before doesn't mean it couldn't, To the ones looking down from their parental pedastal....Would you leave your 7 & 9 year alone for even just a few minutes in Toronto or New York????

    • C baker
      July 11, 2014 - 11:51

      I live in NYC - and yes, yes I would.

    • Emily
      July 11, 2014 - 13:20

      My 6 and 8 year olds go alone to the park every single day in a major city. They know what to do on the off chance that I don't make it home from work before they get home from school. They which neighbors to ask for help if something happens to me (I had an anaphylactic response last year and we gave them a few safety lessons in case it ever happens again and they get scared.) I absolutely do not teach them to fear things that are unlikely to happen like a stranger abduction of more than one child in broad daylight.

    • Shannon
      July 11, 2014 - 13:21

      Yes, because I am smart enough to know that kids are safer now than they ever have been, that running around thinking the sky is falling is a depressing and ridiculous way to live a life, and that kids are actually smart, self-sufficient and practical beings, if you don't wreck them by telling them the boogeyman is around every corner and that every stranger is a monster...in other words teach them reality, not fear based nonsense dreamed up by media and companies wanting to sell "safety measures" to stupid people.

    • WTF
      July 11, 2014 - 13:53

      Yes actually. I live in Toronto and my 6 year old has been walking just over 1km to school alone for a year. She's confident and capable. She knows what to do in an emergency. It's my job as a parent to teach my kids how to do things for themselves, not to instill helplessness.

    • Angela
      July 13, 2014 - 04:38

      "Would you leave your 7 & 9 year alone for even just a few minutes in Toronto or New York????" Of course I would; at the age of 7 I was commuting by subway to my elementary school in downtown Toronto. As were, I might mention, most of my classmates. The bus driver was absolutely right. By what ridiculous stretch of the imagination is an elementary school with staff around (weekday at 4:10, remember?) not a safe place for school-age children? Heck, depending on how much luggage the kids had, they could have walked to Oak & Maple and taken transit home. P.S. I have a friend who grew up in Brooklyn. I just asked, and she walked to elementary school. For heaven's sake, people, the point of raising a child is that they grow up to be an adult. This is not achieved by a fairy waving her wand and saying "bippity boppity boo" on a particular birthday, but by gradual increases in responsibility. If you can't leave your children alone for ten minutes (which turned out to actually be two minutes), why the heck are you sending them off for a week?

  • annie a.
    July 10, 2014 - 20:59

    I agree that there should have been a discussion with the people in charge about what happened in order to prevent it from happening again. If I were the parents I would most certainly be showing up early in case it happened again. Most importantly, I would go over what to do with the children so that they would feel confident WHEN a similar situation happened in the future. That being said, these parents aren't looking out for their kids. They're looking for attention. I know it's harsh, but what does this article serve? It certainly won't keep them safer. The situation was dealt with, but there's no indication that the parents have done anything to make their children more capable and confident in dealing with this kind of thing. And why post their pictures? Honestly, it makes me really uncomfortable...

  • Relax
    July 10, 2014 - 16:55

    I thought by the heading that they were left all day, but 10 mins or less?? Is this newsworthy? When did bus drivers become babysitters? It even said in the story that parents are to be there 10 mins early, the father was less than 10 mins early, only by a couple minutes, but that's a couple more minutes that the kids had to wait. Besides at 9 & 7 they shouldn't be crying and scared to be alone for a few minutes, I agree with Lauren, helicopter parents.

  • Get a grip
    July 10, 2014 - 14:37

    Unbelievable to want the bus driver disciplined. If anyone should be judged here it is the parents. The bus driver transported them to and from safely. These kids are 7 and 9 should they not be able to stay by them selves if need be for minutes? Maybe the parents should spend time with them preparing them on what to do if this happens. The bus driver is not a babysitter

  • linda
    July 10, 2014 - 09:57

    the red cross hired the bus to transport the kids to and from safely, which they did. if the parents cant put in the effort to show up early enough so the kids do have to wait in the heat, dont go pointing fingers at others for not babysitting YOUR kids when you cant even show up and do your job as a parent..heres a thought, maybe next time try spending time with your own kids and teach them yourself instead of pawning them off on strangers and then complain they arent acting like responsible adults.

  • Lauren
    July 10, 2014 - 09:36

    Jumping to a few too many conclusions, I think. Relax, helicopter parents, relax. A 9 and 7 year old should be able to manage for less than 10 minutes on their own at a school. When I was that age we were at schools for hours on our own - playing! Imagine that.

  • Shame on you bus driver
    July 10, 2014 - 07:32

    Never mind discipline that bus driver should be fired... Thank God nothing happened to those kids... What in heck was he thinking dropping off two little kids with no one to look after them and telling them to look for shade!! Really!! You should look for another job as you should NOT be near kids!! you don't have common sense for that position!

    • joseph
      July 10, 2014 - 10:05

      well why would perents want there kids picture spread all over the internet if they were smart about rasing there kids they would of been there at least 30 mins before to make sure to be there to get them there is a bus load of kids and and they were not the only ones on the bus .complaining about the poor bus driver trying to get the kids home safely driving your kids everyday my god people get real and some responsponsiblity for your own kids when you go to a dr, visit you are there well before your time just my oppinion for what it worth

    • Unreal
      July 10, 2014 - 13:06

      Fired?? Really?? This wasn't a 2 and a 4 year old we are talking about. When I was 9 I was out by myself for the whole day. Imagine that. Parents need to take responsibility for their own children.

  • Shame on you bus driver
    July 10, 2014 - 07:29

    Never mind discipline that bus driver should be fired... Thank God nothing happened to those kids... What in heck was he thinking dropping off two little kids with no one to look after them and telling them to look for shade!! Really!! You should look for another job as you should NOT be near kids!! you don't have common sense for that position!

    • Parent
      July 10, 2014 - 20:04

      Wow, I agree with "Unreal". At nine, I was outside playing all day without supervision too. I don't imagine this driver will do this again ...not after being accused of such a wrong doing anyway. But I think the parents are being a bit rough on him. He didn't do anything intentional to put the children in harms way. It's a simple case of miscommunication in my opinion. Not a big deal. Do the kids wait a few minutes for the morning school bus by themselves? Lots of other young kids do it all the time. What's the difference? Jeese.

    • Shannon
      July 11, 2014 - 13:24

      Newsflash: These are not "little" kids. They're of an age where they should be perfectly capable of amusing themselves in a schoolyard for 10 minutes, not bawling in fear because mommy and daddy aren't holding their hand every second.

    • Shannon
      July 11, 2014 - 13:25

      "“I was scared,’’ Rodgers said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never been so scared and so mad at the same time in my life.’’" If this is the worst fear you've ever had in your life, you should consider youself blessed. These people are nuts.