Bus driver leaves girl, 5, at Berckmans Road stop

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A Richmond County school bus driver was relieved of duties pending an investigation Tuesday, a day after being accused of leaving a 5-year-old girl alone along Berckmans Road.

The kindergartner wandered in the heat until passersby helped reunite her with her family, said Linda Gelinas, the girl's grandmother. Emma Sullivan was supposed to be at an after-school program, but paperwork was lost and she was sent home from C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School by bus.

No one discovered Emma missing until her father arrived at C.T. Walker to pick her up, Ms. Gelinas said. All the while, Emma walked from the bus stop near one of the entrances of Augusta National Golf Club to her apartment complex, which is also on Berckmans Road.

Emma's family wants to know why the "tiny" girl of about 40 pounds was left on the side of a well-traveled road, crying, sweaty and scared.

"No one even called (Monday) night to make sure she had been found," Ms. Gelinas said. She worried that Emma might have been taken or hit by a car.

Superintendent Dana Bedden's office issued a news release Tuesday afternoon, stating he was informed of the situation Monday and that no decision would be made on the bus driver's fate until all information is collected.

Emma's mother, Kristin Sullivan, said she filled out paperwork about how her daughter would be transported to and from school during an open house Friday. She wrote down that her daughter would ride the bus to school and be picked up when her after-school program was over.

"No one at the office can say what happened to those forms," Mrs. Sullivan said.

A substitute teacher asked Emma if she rode the bus, and she said yes, her mother said.

Despite objections from other students on the bus and a tearful Emma, the driver told her to get off the bus, Mrs. Sullivan said. She walked from the bus stop to the back of her apartment complex in the afternoon heat, checked the door to her apartment and walked back to her stop.

During a frantic search, Mrs. Sullivan called the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, which was preparing to issue an Amber Alert, she said.

Emma was found by an off-duty Columbia County reserve sheriff's deputy and his wife, who was delivering flowers in the area, Mrs. Sullivan said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

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misslady
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misslady 08/15/07 - 08:51 am
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I agree with some of

I agree with some of you...you should start with the school and then work your way down the line! The bus driver should still be held accountable for his/her actions. Most kindergarten students are excited to be coming home from the first day to tell their parents all about their first day at "big school". So when the child was crying her little eyes out and actually not wanting to get off the bus, the bus driver should have had some kind of clue that things were not right!! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a problem. As far as the school goes, the teacher and the principal, should have some explaining to do! Someone in the RCBE should have at least called to check on the family last night, oh, or did they loose the parents phone number along with the after school paperwork??

Think About All of It
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Think About All of It 08/15/07 - 08:58 am
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These bus drivers don't care

These bus drivers don't care about the well being of the children. I can remeber being in school and not being able to locate my bus on the first day or the bus broke down and we had another one and no one bothered to tell us, or it wasn't parked in the same place and in the process of searching for the bus the driver would pull off leaving me to chase the bus the other children aboard telling her to stop and she keep going, now I'm stranded at school, and sometimes school officials don't want to let you back in to use the phone. Those bus drivers give you a max of maybe 10 minutes to get to that bus and sometimes it takes about 12 minutes to get from you class out to the bus, because the teachers monitoring the hall is making everyone walk in a straight line and stopping the line if anyone gets out off it. I think the problem is lack of communication with the teachers and bus drivers, they all feel like they are not on the same level. All the teachers need to at least know the name of the bus driver and the bus number of all of their elementary school children. If your children are not well taken care of in school where can you trust them to be when their not in you presence.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 08:59 am
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Second, mistakes re: who goes

Second, mistakes re: who goes where are pretty standard for the first day of a new school year. That just happens, everywhere, even with very competent faculty and administrators. The problem here is not that the child ended up on the bus, error though that was. She still was under adult supervision and in the care of the school UNTIL the bus driver drove off and left her alone. What kind of adult could actually do that? It was unbelievably calloused as well as stupid. If that driver is still on the job this morning, RCBOE transportation administrators need to get the axe for not having enough sense to be responsibe for our kids' safety. That's not the kind of mistake a competent adult makes even once with a small child.

AsItIs
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AsItIs 08/15/07 - 09:08 am
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Once upon a time, a middle

Once upon a time, a middle school principal put a young man on my bus.....my route went to Phinizy and Winfield. This young man should've gone to Grovetown....he was from Spain, spoke no English and was new to the area...had no idea where he was supposed to be going, completely dependent on the school to get him home....when he saw the water in my back yard I think he thought he was supposed to swim home! At the end of the route, I called the bus shop..no help...middle school, no help....I happened to have a friend at Grovetown Police Dept...he had a frantic non-English speaking parent looking for this child.....I drove the young man to Grovetown in my private vehicle and met his mother....start with the Principal of the school!

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 09:08 am
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I hate to admit it, but if

I hate to admit it, but if Emma had been my child, I would have found that bus driver myself, and there would have been a lot of physical activity. This isn't just lawsuit territory; this is clearly child endangerment. It deserves more than just getting fired. It merits jail time.

whatever1
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whatever1 08/15/07 - 09:10 am
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thank God the child is OK. I

thank God the child is OK. I am sure that she had bad dreams about the experience and will for a while. Have you seen most of the bus drivers today--many appear to be completely spaced out--on who knows what. It is a job for them--nothing more. When dealing with children people need to have understanding and common sense--THINK you are the adult!!!!!!!!!!!!!

fair is fair
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fair is fair 08/15/07 - 09:14 am
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Things happen on the first

Things happen on the first day of school. My child missed his bus. (We have two bus loads.) He is not five years old - but the PRINCIPAL called me to tell me what happened and not to worry. She put him on a different bus and assured me that he would be home safely, but he would be a little later than expected. He did arrive safely. I appreciated that she took time to CALL.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 09:17 am
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My children ride on bus 84 in

My children ride on bus 84 in Hepzhibah. They go to McBean Elem. While I know there are very serious problems in Richmond Co. Schools and with bus services- their bus driver is one of the best I have ever had!
Yesterday I had one of my sons at a Dr's appt. and my dad was meeting the bus at my house for the other. He was a minute last and the bus was a few minutes early. The driver ALWAYS watches to see if my children get inside or if I am at the drive way.
The driver waited the extra 30 seconds for him (my dad) so my son would be handed over to an adult.
Thank you to bus driver # 84 for YOU do- it takes the parents, teachers, admin, and drivers to ensure the safety of our children of Richmond Co.

AsItIs
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AsItIs 08/15/07 - 09:18 am
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How much trouble would it

How much trouble would it have been to keep the child on the bus till the end of the route and then return her to the school if not sure of her address, especially a 5 year old on the first day?

ListenAndLearn
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ListenAndLearn 08/15/07 - 09:20 am
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This happened to me in

This happened to me in Columbia County 21 years ago and luckily a friend that lived nearby rode by and saw my daughter sitting by our mailbox crying and took her to the local store on the corner and called me. Thankfully, the neighorhood I lived in back then was still small enough, we all knew everyone else and red flags would go up real quick. I fired the babysitter, and she took me to small claims court and I had to pay the witch for the 3 days she was there to meet her at the end of the driveway. Amazingly, she moved away from the neighborhood as quickly as she came. I'm so glad this child was found safe and was reunited.

MJDW
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MJDW 08/15/07 - 09:21 am
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BE-4-REAL Thank you, you took

BE-4-REAL Thank you, you took the words right out of my mouth,
and mrwillard get real!!!

SuperG151
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SuperG151 08/15/07 - 09:24 am
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My son went to Tutt and there

My son went to Tutt and there were numerous times when the bus broke down and he ended up walking home and showed up at 5:30 or 6:00. There needs to be some way of communicating things like this to the parents instead of having them pacing back and forth wondering where their kids are!

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 09:28 am
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We had a sub driver last year

We had a sub driver last year who told me she didn't have to stop at my house if she didn't want because she had so many kids on her route. She let my boys out way down the street- I was [filtered word] because there are no sidewalk and my boys are 7 and 9. Called RCS bus office many times and no one ever called me back. I finally told her if she ever did that again I would call the police. she started to drop them off at the driveway like she was supposed to.

mefirst
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mefirst 08/15/07 - 09:30 am
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In a time when so much is

In a time when so much is wrong with this world,you would think that something as important as the safety of our children,especially those as young as this little girl,would be of paramount concern to us all. The idea of someone leaving a child alone on the side of the road makes my blood run cold. How is it possible,that a so-called "adult", responsible for the welfare and safety of five year old children, could think that this was the right thing to do? Cast blame wherever you will, but that bus driver is guilty of reckless endangerment of a minor child, and should be held leagally accountable. Tthis is an unexcusable lapse in judgment, and cannot be remedied by anything less than a trip through the leagal system for this person. It is nothing less than Devine Providence that the child is alright, and the driver should thank God for protecting her.

gama40
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gama40 08/15/07 - 09:31 am
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Even though this was bad on

Even though this was bad on the part of the school, I still feel its ultimately the parent's responsibility to be sure their 5 yr. old child makes it to school and gets picked up. My goodness the school has hundreds of kids to care for and its really amazing that we don't hear more stories like this. I'm a parent and you can bet I'll be there to see my kids off and at home safe especially on the first day with a 5 yr. old. Let's get off the schools back and hassel the parent! It's past time for parents to be parents and quit looking to everyone else to take care of their children!!

cobweb
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cobweb 08/15/07 - 09:31 am
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Something similar happened to

Something similar happened to my son yesterday (Columbia County). He is 8, but he is a special education student who has a tendancy to wander. When I went to the school to pick him up I was horrified to learn that he had gotten on the special ed bus 20 minutes earlier. There was no one home and he was let off of the bus. Luckily when I got home he hadn't wandered off, but was sitting on the porch (quite upset) waiting for me. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 09:36 am
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cobweb- My heart goes out to

cobweb- My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine what you went through those 20 minutes waiting to find him. Everytime I can't find my kids ( I have boys :) ) My heart just stops!
My worse nightmare is about something happening at school and I am not there.

BoldTruth
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BoldTruth 08/15/07 - 09:39 am
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This is what's wrong with our

This is what's wrong with our soceity, no compassion and no frogiveness. Yes a terrible incident happened that could have been avoided. But none of us know the whole story and have already fired, sued and ready to jail the driver, school, school board, and parents. Lets use this as a learning tool and forgive all involved. Itr may be us one day on the other end of some incident.

abc123xyz
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abc123xyz 08/15/07 - 09:42 am
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I agree the bus driver made a

I agree the bus driver made a horrendous mistake putting a 5 year old off the bus alone. AND the school is also partly responsible in that they did not check on this family once what happened became known. But as someone previously stated, Walker registration is done in the spring (April, sometimes May) so why was the contact information on the child outdated? But my main question is, why is everyone forgetting about the main player in this situation? "THE FAMILY Y" - they are the ones that provide the "Prime Time" services & they alone keep track of the registration paperwork for that program - NOT the school. When the child was made to leave Prime Time because "they" lost the paperwork, the child should not have been turned over to a substitute teacher. All schools have different dismissal procedures & a sub works in all the schools, so how is she to know how to handle this situtation? She/He should have taken the child to a permanent school employee that would have known what to do so that the child would NEVER have even been put on the bus. The bottom line is, if the Prime Time employees hadn't turned the child away, none of this would have happened in the first place.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 09:45 am
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I think in some cases a lot

I think in some cases a lot of parents have become complacent and need to get back to being there for their children.
I know saying that will anger many but I will always put MY children first. We only have one chance to raise them right before we sent them off in this world. How can we do that if we don't show them support and love?

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 09:49 am
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Prime Time turned this kid

Prime Time turned this kid over to a bus driver without notifying her parents? BIG lawsuit!

bus driver
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bus driver 08/15/07 - 10:01 am
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I am a driver by law we are

I am a driver by law we are told that the only parents that have to be at the stop is that of Pre-K. I personally have kept kids on the bus that are 1st grade on down if they do not have an older sibling on the bus. If there is no one to meet them. I drive several busy roads, and I am afraid they would get hurt or taken. we give out information sheets to the students to give to the parent for them to fill out and give back incase their is a problem like this. I have called several parents on my own personall phone & not the county. I have had adults to meet the bus & they are not suppose to for what evere reason & I have had to keep the children on the bus for their safety. I have had my route for 8 years. I know all my kids I even know when a vehicle is not suppose to be at the stop & have called law enforcement when these vehicles have approached the children. The schools want the kids out of there as soon as possible so they can go home so when we have a problem we have no one their to contact so we have to take them to the sherriffs office.

bus driver
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bus driver 08/15/07 - 10:01 am
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If one of my kids is crying

If one of my kids is crying and do not want to get off the bus I would have to contact someone because to me that means something is probably wrong at home.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:04 am
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Thank you Grovetown Mom

Thank you Grovetown Mom

tasha1
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tasha1 08/15/07 - 10:08 am
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ok this is crazy! teh parents

ok this is crazy! teh parents of this little girl should still be raising hell. everybody saying it shouldnt be the bus drivers fault... the problem starts with the school an das you all said work its way down. when those parents registered their child for school they thought just like every other parent: my child is safe. especially with her going to "c.t. walker"! the paper work should have been at hand when needed. yes the schools do need to register a week before not a day or two before. we as parents are supposed to feel safe when our children are at school. we put our kids safety in the hands of rcbe when they hire their workers. what kind of background or evaluation was done on this bus driver and for that matter the substitute teacher? who listens to a 5 year old child? the bus driver didnt have common sense that something wasnt right but they have enough sense to form a sit in and talk about how they are mistreated as a bus driver!? come on and get real! this is the exact reason my child will never ride a bus. this bus driver or teacher obviously does not have any children of their own! lets see if this get as much attention as children wearing wearing uniforms!

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:08 am
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I dont know the whole deal

I dont know the whole deal witht the program but the kids should have idenifying tags to where they should go. This is horrible, but I see many people on here saying the driver needs to make sure someone is home.. they can get in... had a driver come back because parents were late, etc.... while the school or teachers should have made sure that the child went where they were supposed to, the bus driver did her job except the fact other students and a crying emma said no, then she should have listened. When we were small we didn't get dropped off at our front of our door like most parents today whine about. We had a neighborhood bus stop where it was the parents responsibility to take the kids home from there. So I do blame the school and bus driver for this, but I am just appaulled at how people today think they can just push responsibility off onto other people to make things easier on them.. then if the driver is nice enough to do it... people think they deserve it from everyone then on. The schools are not babysitters and to many people use them as just that. I bet if you were late all the time and they charged like daycares do, people would start being on time.

serenityjoi
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serenityjoi 08/15/07 - 10:10 am
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people get real! this has

people get real! this has nothing to do with richmond vs columbia counties school system! i know for a fact that an incident just like this happened in your so called "perfect" area but to a little boy! never made the papers though! please donot blame a entire villiage for a poor decision by a few!

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:13 am
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Hello----parents-----------it

Hello----parents-----------its your child!

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:16 am
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tasha though I agree with

tasha though I agree with you, you said who listens to a five year old child? Well what appaulled me was that she was crying not wanting to get off and other students we telling the driver too, but the driver ignored them. In your phrase... why would the anyone listen to the 5 year old?? The driver is not at fault if thats the way you look at it. There were signs calling in both situations for the teacher and driver to investigate the childs situation further before sending the child off unknown.

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:20 am
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oh yeah, and all the people

oh yeah, and all the people who expect for the drivers to wait til a 5 year old walks to the front door rings the bell and waits on the parent to answer and get the child before pulling off. Your laziness and lack of parenting are causeing major traffic jams. Last year I was appaulled at how long these drivers wait and how long the parent took to get their child, knowing traffic is being held up over and over every half mile making other responsible parents to be held up and leave earlier because of people like you. Parents start doing you jobs and stop pushing it off onto others!!!!!!!

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