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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hopeful
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hopeful 08/15/07 - 11:17 am
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patriciathomas.....you said

patriciathomas.....you said it, they could breathe, so they passed. Just like the tachers that constantly call home because so and so coughed, so and so won't listen. If they couldn't handle it, they should have picked another career. Everyone is going to make mistakes, but I partially blame the system. There is only so much they can do and these kids know this. Its sad

truthbknown
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truthbknown 08/15/07 - 11:18 am
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First of all Thank God some

First of all Thank God some freak out there didn't try to pick her up... The bus driver is not the only one to blame here!!! There apparently were some gaps in communication... If in doubt the teacher should have called her parents... I would would be raising cane just like this parent is!!!!

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 11:23 am
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BELLM, my friend tells me

BELLM, my friend tells me that some of those Italian kids don't want to grow up and move out even into their 30s! I'm not sure what I would be willing to give up to live as I did when I was very young and things were so much simpler. We had a cook and a nannie back then, so we didn't need a dishwasher or daycare, and we could walk or ride bikes pretty much anywhere we want to go. We didn't need two cars because my mom stayed home or took my dad to work. It was simpler and safer, mainly because moms were at home and could help if someone needed them.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 11:29 am
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Yah, I guess my ex-military

Yah, I guess my ex-military girly-self has become my mother!
I am now a college educated stay-at-home mom who runs the kids everywhere while my husband is in Iraq. But that was our choice and I am glad we had it.
I love taking care of my boys but they are leaving for college and not coming back (he!he!)- my husband says he is getting them luggage for their 18th birthday. No Italian bambino's in this house.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 11:40 am
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BTW, we did have a Turkish

BTW, we did have a Turkish nanny in Turkey ( imagine that!) while my husband and I both worked and she would have laid her life down to protect them. So I never had to worry about them while I was at work.

mable8
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mable8 08/15/07 - 11:40 am
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Many years ago, a similar

Many years ago, a similar incident happened to us; our 5 yr old was put on a different bus. A teacher decided his bus number on his badge was wrong, crossed it off and put on another. My husband and I were called by the sitter that he was missing. Had no clue of his whereabouts until he showed up at the general store at 6 pm that night. The school put him on a bus that travelled the other end of the county; she took him back to school and someone realized where he actually lived. Frantic? Hardly the word. Angry, you bet. What did the school do about it? Apologized; no reprmands or anything. Seems like nothing has changed in all these years. Glad the child turned up safe.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 11:41 am
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Prayers up for your husband,

Prayers up for your husband, BELLM. My youngest has two years of high school left, and softie that I am, I hope she lives at home during college, lives at home until she marries the perfect man we completely approve of!

keke20041
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keke20041 08/15/07 - 11:47 am
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Poor baby. I can't even begin

Poor baby. I can't even begin to image how scared she was.

fair is fair
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fair is fair 08/15/07 - 11:50 am
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It is very important for

It is very important for children to know their phone number, address including city and state and their parents names -not nicknames- and where they work. I have witnessed kids in the 3rd grade and up tell someone their mother's name is BooBoo. They can learn these things very early in life.

fair is fair
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fair is fair 08/15/07 - 12:06 pm
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Brown - No she is not the

Brown - No she is not the Principal there. We are in a different county. (Not Richmond or Columbia) When I have issues they always listen. It doesn't mean that I always 100% agree with the end decision, but they do listen.
Like I said with out situation - someone should have made a phone call to her parents to verify where she would go. Perhaps the substitute was a long term sub for someone that had surgery or a baby. In that case the substitute should have been a certified or retired teacher. I guess that rule still applies. It is a good thing that a good person picked the child up.

butterflygina
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butterflygina 08/15/07 - 12:09 pm
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One issue at stake is why was

One issue at stake is why was a sub there on the first day of school? Shortage or illness? Secondly, CT Walker is a wonderful school, they helped mold my sophomore into the responsible student she is today. That sub probably didn't have access to the registration cards that the mother had completed. The fact that the little girl and others objected strongly to the child being put off is something to consider. I agree, a simple phone call (this is a 5 year-old, 1st time riding bus alone) may have prevented this. We use to have to fill out a little index card with our information for the bus driver to keep on the bus.

abc123xyz
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abc123xyz 08/15/07 - 12:10 pm
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After doing some checking

After doing some checking around & asking some hard questions, I discovered - as usual - the newspaper twisted what facts they had around & didn't print all the facts involved in this situation. IMAGINE THAT! The Augusta Chronicle jumps on any opportunity to make the Richmond County school system look bad. What is up with that?! Aren't we all in this life together? The same thing happened in Columbia County - just for example - but I didn't see any articles on that. I wonder why - is the owner and/or editor of the Augusta Chronicle getting some kind of pay off or kick-back from the real estate agents or Columbia County commissioners to smear the Richmond County school system so that everyone will leave here & move there?

butterflygina
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butterflygina 08/15/07 - 12:13 pm
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fair is fair, I believe that

fair is fair, I believe that she knew her phone number. The bus driver didn't ask, she just said, "GET OFF NOW!"

brown
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brown 08/15/07 - 12:16 pm
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Walker mom - please tell us

Walker mom - please tell us the whole story.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 12:17 pm
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Well, uhm, in addition to

Well, uhm, in addition to sharing all the accusations for the Chronicle, why don't you enlighten the rest of us concerning the facts, since you've asked the hard questions?

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 08/15/07 - 12:37 pm
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i grew up right across the

i grew up right across the street from my elementary school and my mom still would not let me walk nor ride the bus. she picked me up everyday until she had a job requiring her to stay until 6pm. then i started attending a day care and my mom called the day care everyday at 3:20 to make sure we made it there safely

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 08/15/07 - 12:51 pm
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yeah, walker mom, I'd like to

yeah, walker mom, I'd like to hear the "whole story" too, since you act like you know the whole thing. How did you find out that the AC twisted the story? Do you think that the AC would print a story that was twisted around? Do you know that could be grounds for a lawsuit? They just print the facts from eye witnesses and police reports. So don't hate on the AC!

cchsparent
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cchsparent 08/15/07 - 01:06 pm
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Not defending anyone in this

Not defending anyone in this situation but I wonder how many elementary school kids aren't met at the bus by an adult. Seems blame should start at the top so she never got on the bus and what is the procedure a bus driver uses when a child is not met.

reruns
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reruns 08/15/07 - 01:10 pm
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Another Black eye for

Another Black eye for richmond county. Did you see the Columbia County bus driver found a student on her bus after returning home?

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 08/15/07 - 01:12 pm
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My daughter starts

My daughter starts kindergarten on Monday (we are in Edgefield county) and this is one reason why I will be maiking other arrangements for her to get home. It also makes me re-think that option of the primetime care as well. I was so terrified that she would not get on the right bus, be dropped off somewhere with no one home, etc. This story has really touched me so much, because my daughter is also 5. I can only image what her parents were thinking, and what this child has gone through.

fair is fair
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fair is fair 08/15/07 - 01:25 pm
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Butterflygina - If she knew

Butterflygina - If she knew her phone number - even if she didn't someone should have looked it up and called her mother or someone listed as a contact before she ever got on the bus. I wasn't implying that she did not know it. I was stressing that is why it is important for all children to know their home information. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

GAGIRL1
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GAGIRL1 08/15/07 - 01:26 pm
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Just awful! My boys are

Just awful! My boys are riding home from school on the bus this year for the first time. Maybe we should reconsider. I'm glad we insist that they carry their cell phones with them.

whyme
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whyme 08/15/07 - 01:32 pm
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First of all, I took off work

First of all, I took off work to pick my daughter up for her first day of school, and no, I don't have a luxury job to do so. Second, when I did send my daughter on the day care van thereafter, it was my responsibility to make sure that the arrangements were appropriate for my child. They had a checks and balance system so that if my child wasn't on the van, the driver came and hunted someone down; I would be charged a fee if I failed to tell them that my child wasn't riding.Next, while the idea of only dropping a child off if a parent is waiting is ideal, I can assure you that many parents aren't even around to greet or otherwise have someone meeting the child at the stop. That is not the fault of the school or the driver, it is the parent's fault. Finally, my child was taught almost to the point of extreme vigilance that when she startd riding the bus home, if something just wasn't right, like in this case, absolutely she was not to get off the bus. None of this excuses the driver's lack of common sense-why didn't she call someone for clarification?-but it is an additional take on the whole who's-to-blame situation.

whyme
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whyme 08/15/07 - 01:32 pm
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Debates continue on this

Debates continue on this subject about parent involvement in Richmond vs. Columbia Counties and the fact is it is less, regardless of income.

Auntie
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Auntie 08/15/07 - 01:43 pm
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Funny how Columbia Co BOE has

Funny how Columbia Co BOE has already MADE a statement regarding their bus incident today. This case in Ricgmond Co. is not purely a bus incident. It ORIGINATED at the school level, and hence they have released NO statement. The Richmond Co. BOE should do so for them..........it took the media's awareness of the sitation and 24hrs for Dr Bedden to send Channel 6 a statement. The bus driver is not totally at fault here in Emma's case...and yet she is the one who is literally thrown under the bus.

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 01:45 pm
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I am still sitting here

I am still sitting here waiting on the "real story" from Walker mom.

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 08/15/07 - 01:46 pm
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me too bellm1965.......

me too bellm1965.......

Augustabelle
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Augustabelle 08/15/07 - 01:46 pm
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I am A RCBE bus driver, and

I am A RCBE bus driver, and while I don't condone what the school or driver did, there are always two sides to each story. We as bus drivers share a responsibility for the wellfare of all the students and we don't always get information about our riders. In a perfect world all the kids would have name tags with phone numbers and a parent would be at home baking cookies. BUT, this is not a perfect world and parents work, paper work gets lost, and people make bad decisions. Thank goodness no harm came Emma and she got home safely. It would help us drivers so much if the parents would write your childs info on the bookbag in case of a situation such as this. Why is it the school or the drivers sole responsibility to assure these children know how to get home? I personally asked a child from Bayvale Elem where he lived and was told " Mama's house"! After attempting to get this child to "mama's house" I was forced to take him back to the school and they contacted "Mama" On the second day this same student boarded my bus again without any information and thankfully I noticed this and sent him back in to his teacher to get his address. Help us get your child home safely. God Bless!

anotherday
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anotherday 08/15/07 - 01:48 pm
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I think the pressure was to

I think the pressure was to much purpleprincess.......

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 08/15/07 - 01:49 pm
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either that, or she doesn't

either that, or she doesn't know what she's talking about.....

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