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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WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:20 am
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BELLM1965: This isn't the

BELLM1965: This isn't the parents' fault by any stretch of the imagination. They made appropriate arrangements for their daughter and the people who made an agreement with them to be responsible for her didn't live up to what they told the parents they would do. Nobody even told the parents there was a problem. They didn't find out there was until they went to pick her up. What else would you have had them do? Call the school, call Prime Time, just to check that everything happened the way it was supposed to happen? Should all of us do that too? I'm sure the school would just love that! Think before you post.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:22 am
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serenity who was saying

serenity who was saying anything like that??? the posts I read were of CC examples too.

HGGP
0
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HGGP 08/15/07 - 10:22 am
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First of all after having

First of all after having been a substitute for years and then a TA, I know the importance of my children's welfare and safety. They are my children until they reach their parents. That person was wrong! She should have had a viable list of transporation. The children should have had on name tags that CLEARLY stated who they are, how they are transported, their address, phone and contact information. The bus driver's first mistake was not having a morning and afternoon roster avaliable to check off children as they get on and off the bus. You can not take the word of a 5 year old when they are in their best state of mind and especially not when they are scared to death! The other children on the bus knew something was not right, but the BD did not listen. But the fault lies there too. Why did the older children allow that child to stay out there alone. Then again that is one of the busiest roads in Augusta, I am sure that the off duty officer was not the only one who saw that baby walking all alone. Shame on all who passed by and did not stop. I hope all of you have nightmares about what could've been and what you should've been. They are all "our" children. There are many to blame

cobweb
0
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cobweb 08/15/07 - 10:23 am
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Unless it happened more than

Unless it happened more than once yesterday, that little boy was my son, believe me... I know that it happens in Columbia County too.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:26 am
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TAKEASTAND, you make a good

TAKEASTAND, you make a good point about parents being part of the problem at drop-off points. It might be good to have a set time limit, or a policy that someone must be waiting for the child in order for the child to be let off the bus. Otherwise, the kid goes back to the school or, if mandated, to the sheriff's office, to wait for the parents. And then give them a ticket for causing the problem. People mostly have cell phones and can call the school to let them know not to send their kid home on the bus, if need be.

Augusta Mom
1
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Augusta Mom 08/15/07 - 10:26 am
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Well thank goodness nothing

Well thank goodness nothing happened to this child! Mistakes were made all the way from the subst teacher to the bus driver. Ultimately the bus driver was the responsible person as you are dealing with a 5 year old child. A small child (crying and scared) should not have been left by the side of a busy road alone by anyone! I understand that the bus driver has been suspended for this.. this was a total lack of common sense!! I suspect it will be almost impossible to have that bus driver fired because she is part of the bus driver's union.

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:28 am
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I don't need to think. I

I don't need to think. I think on the first day of school for my child I would double check. Just to be sure. Mistakes are made. It happens- parents, teachers, admin, drivers- everyone makes them.
Primetime cannot accept a child if they do not have paper work.
The child said she was to goe on the bus.
The child should have phone number in her bag.
All teacher have at least 3 listing of where there child goes- signed off by the parent. The last time is at the open house by the parent.
I do not care if the school think I an a nut case I WILL check on my child on the fisrt day of school for him or her if I cannot be there.
There is a list on the door of my childrens classroom where they go- their floder and at the lunchroom door where all children exit.

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:30 am
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Sorry for the typos

Sorry for the typos

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:32 am
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Grovetownmom you sound like a

Grovetownmom you sound like a great driver and person, but you chose to do that because you are a responsible person and you are taking up other parents slack. It happens sometimes and thats fine, you are good to take the measures you do, but some people rely on it. I'm sure your job is hard enough without having irresponsible parents not being on time to get their child and inconvienceing everyone. It is bad enough to have to wait for 10 stops on the same stretch of road behind a bus waiting for a 5 year olds little feet to carry them across the street but to have at each stop the driver sitting blowing the horn for 5 minutes holding up traffic waiting on the mom to finish washin her hair or w/e.. gets tiring. Parents need to step up, Buses are not a limo service or babysitters. This year I think I will start complaining about those same parents I see not waiting for their child and practically having to be forced out to get them!! Some people are ridiculous. This is not the situation of the article.. just a general rant. lol

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:36 am
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The problem, BELLM, is that

The problem, BELLM, is that neither the school nor Prime Time can handle calls from every worried parent and still have school or their program. If you've set everything in place and done all the things asked of you by those entities, you must be able to trust they also will do what they say they will. Adults entrusted with the care of children should have enough sense of responsibility not to pass any kid off on someone else, paperwork or not, and especially not to leave it somewhere all alone. It's called having good character and good judgment, things you might expect, even require of child care personnel and bus drivers.

opinions
11
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opinions 08/15/07 - 10:38 am
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Latest story comments,

Latest story comments, Columbia County school authorities say they are investigating an incident in which a Grovetown Elementary School kindergartner hid on his school bus Tuesday afternoon and then started walking home after the bus driver had parked it and left.

"A student was left on a bus. The bus driver drove her route, parked her bus and performed her post-drive sweep," said Sandra Carraway, the Columbia County school system deputy superintendent. Dr. Carraway did not identify the child or the bus driver. However, she said the driver has been employed by the school system for several years.

She said the transportation department and the Columbia County sheriff's office are investigating.

The driver then went into her house, and the child got off the bus, she said.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:38 am
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TAKEASTAND, can't you take

TAKEASTAND, can't you take them back to the school if the parents don't show up in a reasonable amount of time? It really should be their problem to deal with in the kind of situations you are describing.

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:39 am
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I understand that

I understand that WorriedAboutOurFuture but I believe in this day and age for the most part only rely on myself- sad state of affairs- is it not?

cobweb
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cobweb 08/15/07 - 10:40 am
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Yikes! Then I guess it did

Yikes! Then I guess it did happen to more than one kid.

HGGP
0
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HGGP 08/15/07 - 10:41 am
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R U 4 real "gama". It was the

R U 4 real "gama". It was the parents responsibility to make sure that she arrived at school safely. The parents did the responsible thing and arranged for their baby to be in the supervised after school program, and then would be picked up. The did the responsible thing. You gama need to take a step back and think about what you are typing. The parents are in no way shape or form responsible for the mishandling of the child that they entrusted to the school system. Our school system is top rate: morning and afternoon rosters for the driver, if they are not on the roster they are turned over to an AP. They have student information sheets on every child, or they do not ride. Each driver has a radio that connects directly with the bus shop. Each driver has a cell phone that connects directly to the bus shop and or all of the supervisors and the Central Office. Someone mans the bus shop phones until the last child has arrived home. We are a smaller system the RC, but there is no reason why similiar measures can not be in place. All it would take was some competent employees and a little thinking. Oh so that is the problem. I hope the new super goes in there and cleans house!

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:44 am
0
0
Yes, it is a sad state of

Yes, it is a sad state of affairs indeed. I just know that very few parents now have any other choice than to trust people like teachers, after school care providers and bus drivers to do what they should to keep their child safe and properly supervised. We've got a great standard of living in this country, but children don't get to grow up with their mommies very much any more.

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:45 am
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Having said all of this- I

Having said all of this- I believe that when all is said and done, we are going to fine that there was a breakdown on many different levels- not just the driver.
I still maintain parents must be more diligent.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/15/07 - 10:46 am
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Worried.. I'm not sure I am

Worried.. I'm not sure I am not a driver.. just an unfortunate motorist that has to follow a bus down a long stretch of road to get home. lol Sometimes I try to go shopping or something to delay my time going that way home. It nice not to worry about it in the summer!! lol Just makes me mad the same parents do it over and over and I think its less of an inconvience to the driver to take them back than it is so sit wait and honk. Just isn't very pleasany for the other 20 people being held up several times a day on the same stretch of road by the same inconsiderate parents. These buses generally show up withing the same 10-15 mintue time frame everyday. The parents should be there, the problem is once irresponsible parents start doing that.. it throws the whole time system out of wack!!

anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:47 am
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We do have a great standard

We do have a great standard of living but at what expense?
We moved back recently from overseas (we had been gone for 7 years) and my children still are in culture shock how Amercian kids ( they are American) living here are different than them.

aintryt
189
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aintryt 08/15/07 - 10:48 am
0
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I thought it was the bus

I thought it was the bus driver's responsibility to pick the children up and drop them off at the bus stop and that's it.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:48 am
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Well, obviously there were

Well, obviously there were breakdowns in the communication all the way down the line. But the driver is the only one who left a 5-year-old alone on the side of a busy road. That didn't have to happen.

anotherday
46
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 10:50 am
0
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THAT was crappy- can't

THAT was crappy- can't dispute that!

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 10:55 am
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BELLM, I can only imagine

BELLM, I can only imagine what it is like for them, depending on where you have come from. My best friend lives in Italy and her children come over here to school after a certain age. They're in shock too, for a while. Then they really love having access to so much of everything. They also are quite fond of air conditioning. I think the glut of material things gets a bit overwhelming for them after a while, but they like that people over here tend to believe in God, unlike most Europeans.

anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 08/15/07 - 11:01 am
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We where in Turkey for 3

We where in Turkey for 3 years then Italy for the rest. Childrens overseas, I think are children longer if that makes sense. While they love Mickey D's and the toys- they would love to go back to Turkey as we would. Life is a little simpler on some levels but it is just not realistic.
The kids here were just a shock to them- they were rougher and had a lot of video games that we don't (other than computers).
Oh, and of course the TV is a hugh hit here for them.

Honden
2
Points
Honden 08/15/07 - 11:02 am
0
0
It is a requirement that an

It is a requirement that an adult be present at the bus stop before my 6 yr old may get off the bus. Is this just a requirement here at this Columbia Co school? ( I would assume not )

fuggie
0
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fuggie 08/15/07 - 11:02 am
0
0
It's unfortunate that this

It's unfortunate that this situation happened, and my heart goes out to this beautiful little girl and her parents. It is that type of situation that prompts outrage and scrutiny of standard operating procedures, especially when a child's safety is in jeopardy.Let's put a working plan into action:whatever arrangements made by the parents should not only be in the child's school file, but in the teacher's file and a copy provided to the bus driver, so that all who encounter school children will know who is authorized to pick up the children, either from school or at the bus stop; whether the child will be riding the bus or picked up by a parent, and other matters concerning the protection and safety of the children. Let this be a milestone that change the way things are handled, with respect to our children, whether on the school grounds, at the bus stop, or on the bus. Let's add bus monitors to each bus, so that the driver will not have to shuffle paperwork and drive at the same time. There are solutions, and there are answers, we must see that they are put into action with a purpose and that purpose is the safety and protection of our children. Can we count on you?

anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 08/15/07 - 11:05 am
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Well said fuggie

Well said fuggie

opinions
11
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opinions 08/15/07 - 11:05 am
0
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There is one most important

There is one most important thing here that is missing,,,,You can't take all that is said through the paper as the gospel truth. Yes it did happen, but the question is how? Unless you talk directly to the bus driver, school or the parents, the paper is gonna print something different just about every time, as you can see on my last opinion. This happened to my son in Kindergarten, he was supposed to go to Prime Time after school but he walked home. We lived close enough to the school for him to do this but I wanted him to be with someone till I got home from work which was only about 1 hour after school. I go to pick him up and he's not there and I panicked. Went home and he was sitting on the porch. First thing I did was blame the school, I thought it was their responsability to make sure he went to Prime Time and it was, but he left and walked home from there. So Prime Time should take roll call of all their children that are suppose to be there, if they are missing a child they should call the school or the parents and see where they are! It falls back on Prime Time, now mind you I promise after I got through with him he didn't do this again. He was where he was suppose to be.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 11:15 am
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I agree with you OPINIONS. It

I agree with you OPINIONS. It sounds like Prime Time has some genuine culpability in this situation. They should have kept the kid until they got the right info on her.

Bears
0
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Bears 08/15/07 - 11:16 am
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I am a parent of a 4 year old

I am a parent of a 4 year old who started pre-k this year, I would be so upset if my child was misplaced, but I do not fill like its the fault of the bus driver, I do think things should have been handled in a different manner, I'm from Burke County and I ride the bus as a bus monitor, the drivers are concerned about the kids., if we have a child on our bus who is not supposed to ride she has to call and get instructions from the bus shop, I fill like alot of stuff in this situation were not followed, but ALL blame can not be put on one person, how was the driver to know that no one was home, she/hes just the drive lots of people dont meet their kids at the bus stop, how was the driver gonna know that these parents were any different, hopefully everyone will learn from this.

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