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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aj
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aj 08/15/07 - 08:05 pm
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About 8 years ago my daughter

About 8 years ago my daughter missed her stop because she fell asleep, she was sitting with the neighbor girl and she didn't wake her up. When I found this out I was worried and yes, the neighbor girl got into big trouble with her parents. A couple of other kids told the bus driver that my daughter didn't get off and she promptly brought her directly to my home. I really think the bus driver should look in every seat before leaving. Not just for kids but stuff left by them. Kudos to the bus drivers that care for their students.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/15/07 - 08:45 pm
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Hey WILDCAT, your kids aren't

Hey WILDCAT, your kids aren't supposed to have a cell phone in their possession on school grounds or on a school bus, whether it's on or off. High schoolers can leave them in their cars, but school buses are verbotten. That's the rule anyway. They may have brains enough not to turn them on except in emergencies, but the kind of random searches that are conducted might one day relieve them of their phones.

cris5374
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cris5374 08/15/07 - 10:48 pm
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and i will say it again had

and i will say it again had that been my kid i would have kicked that bus drivers butt to the grissle!! when my daughter was 16 she flew from ny to az , being a minor she had to fly stewerdess care , that meant that she had to wear a sign around her neck that said(in big letters) unaccomompanied minor( a pedophiles dream)i also remember the times that kindergarden kids wore a bit of info around thier necks too . bottom line in this case , the parents did their job and the school put that baby in all kids of danger,forget getting kidnaped ,raped, killed for a minute ,what if she tried to cross that big street. this is an outrage and i want to know what the parents are gonna do about it

BE-4-REAL
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BE-4-REAL 08/15/07 - 10:50 pm
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What about where was the

What about where was the mother of this child when this happened maybe home asleep?
If everyone thinks it is so easy to keep up with all the kids getting on and of of a bus, for several differant schools throughout the day on the first day of school,YOU NEED TO SIGNUP TO BE A BUS DRIVER AND TRY IT AND SEE HOW EASY YOU THINK IT IS.

dillster
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dillster 08/15/07 - 10:52 pm
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My daughter rode the bus a

My daughter rode the bus a short time 2 years ago. One day I waited an hour for the bus which was late. I saw the bus pass by 3 times. I had to chase the bus down to get my daughter off. The driver said it was not her usual route and she had no idea. Scary for a parent to have to do. Thank God that little girl is ok.

misery031877
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misery031877 08/16/07 - 12:27 am
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Let me start by saying that

Let me start by saying that this is a tragedy. I went through a similar situation about 10 years ago with my oldest daughter. Her bus arrived early one day and the bus driver did not let her off, he didn't bring her back to the busstop either he took her back to school and the school called me to let me know what happened and apologized. But the most important thing is that she was ok and they let me know asap. From then on I was always early to her busstop! As for this year my son started kindergarten and attends the same school as one of my other daughters, his teacher still called me during the day on the first day to ensure that he was to ride the bus as well. I appreciated this very much. I am proud of my childrens school Garrett Elem. and of my childrens bus driver. Bus#79. She makes it a point to speak every morning and each year she speaks to us just to make sure that each child will be getting off at this stop! She is a wonderful woman. While doing this it only takes her a few seconds and she is always on time! The bus driver in the article should take notes. I know that my childrens bus driver would have never done this she would take them back to school!

misery031877
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misery031877 08/16/07 - 12:30 am
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Bus Driver a Babysitter?

Bus Driver a Babysitter? Answer No.. Bus driver should have used common sense! Point is no matter how busy the bus drivers are, they don't have to hang around at the bus stop, just take the children back to school! It really is that simple! I believe this didn't happen simply because it would have been a little time consumming.

Son of God
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Son of God 08/16/07 - 01:20 am
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I don't see anyone saying

I don't see anyone saying nuch about the MIRACLE that GOD has granted this little girl and her mother. Why are you so concerned about what the superintendent is going to do/ What are you going to do? It can't be pray because God does not hear the or answer prayers of sinners. We are all entitled to a mistake and one was made but not a fatal one. It is what it is! Dr. Bedden will make the right decision on this and everything that he does. Where is your faith? That mother and everyboby else should be praising God and leaping for joy. Vengence is mine saith the Lord and I will repay. Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will not be utterly cast down. To those of you who haven't any mercy and compassion, cast the first stone. I promise you will dissappear, quick and in a hurry! May God bless the bus driver, the 5 year old, her parents and everyboby that's involved. Your day, too, will come. Be ye also ready for you know not the time or the hour. Don't let it come when you are tearing down your brother instead of building him up. Always be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger. LET'S LOVE ONE ANOTHER. THE TIME IS NEAR AND HELL IS FOREVER BURNING;EVEN TODAY!

The_Last_Word
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The_Last_Word 08/16/07 - 06:15 am
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The same bus was involved in

The same bus was involved in an accident on the 15th of August (yesterday - a day after this incident). A mirror was clipped. The children were forced to stay on the bus for 2-3 hours to wait for another bus and were not allowed to use the bus driver's cell phone. No parents were notified that the bus would be late. Thank you Richmond County Schools.

Motherofchild
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Motherofchild 08/16/07 - 08:58 am
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First of all, I am very

First of all, I am very grateful that God was watching over my child on Monday when my child was dumped off the bus that she shouldn't of even been on in the first place.. But who is to say that the next time this happens that child will be as lucky as my child!!
People keep saying that one mistake was made so to just get over it, but actually four mistakes were made!! Starting with the teacher who had us fill out a form explaining Monday's (the first day of school) transportation instructions.. Which I wrote (actually on 3 different forms) stating she will be riding the bus in the morning and in the afternoon she will be a car pick-up after attending Prime-Time YMCA (which I also enrolled my child in that same night and paid for the first week). All that information should have been passed on to Administration since the teacher was not going to be there on Monday. According to the teacher that information was left for the Principal, which the Principal said she never had.. So if that is the case, then why didn't the Principal either call the teacher for those forms or call all the parents in that Kindergarten class? Please read further, I am out of space..
Continues on....

Motherofchild
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Motherofchild 08/16/07 - 09:09 am
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(It would have taken all

(It would have taken all about 20 minutes to make those calls) Instead they took matters into there own hands and put that child on a bus that was zoned for her street. Did I forget to mention that they asked the 5 yr old how she was suppose to get home?? Third, Prime-Time should have done some type of roll call to make sure all students were accounted for.. Then they would of realized that my child was missing, not when my husband comes to pick her up at 4:30!! Finally, that leaves us with the bus driver who should have had enough common sense not to leave that child alone at a bus stop on a main road in front of an apartment complex and not having a clue where that child lives (which is located at the VERY end). Fine they claim that they are not a babysitter, but if they are going to take a job working with children then take some responsibility and gain some common sense and keep that kid on the bus and bring her back to CT Walker!! Even the other students on the bus had more common sense than the driver did!! YOU COULD OF KILLED MY CHILD!!!! Continues on....

Motherofchild
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Motherofchild 08/16/07 - 09:23 am
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My point is, if just one of

My point is, if just one of those people that I named above had taken the extra time to do there job correctly and in the best interest of the child then this would of NEVER happened!! All it would of taken was for one person to STOP this chain of mistakes then my child would have not been wandering the streets of Augusta ALONE!! I thank the Lord that that wonderful couple picked my child up off the side of the road and brought her to safety!!
This has been a horrible experience for my child and my family that could have been avoided!! I do blame myself for not making a phone call to the school to make sure that they had there act together, but I guess with all the hype about how great CT Walker was I thought she was safe and in good hands! I still want her to attend that school because I think she will receive a good education, but I will never forgive or forget this incident!
What bothers us the most, is that nobody from the school, DOT, board members, or BOE has called us to see how my child was or to explain any of there actions!
I am just thankful that Emma was able to attend school the next day and not on a Missing Child Poster or ....... (the worse)
Continues on...

Motherofchild
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Motherofchild 08/16/07 - 09:27 am
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Thank you to all the people

Thank you to all the people who were on our side and put us in there hearts! And God Bless the ignorant people who put there two cents in and don't even know the whole correct story!! If you don't know what your talking about then just don't say anything at all!!
Thank you again, The Family

vintage rock
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vintage rock 08/16/07 - 10:16 am
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this is completely

this is completely ridiculous.

Give credit where due
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Give credit where due 08/16/07 - 11:00 am
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Ok folks , calm down this

Ok folks , calm down this time the child is safe .. Thank God !! as far as the driver and teacher ..thats the B O E fault , they should have guidelines for these employees ... not everyone has common sense to handle things such as this .. sad but true ..so my suggestion is .. for the board to come up with a guideline to handle all the things that would prevent any future problems ..like a list of children who should be on each bus .. morning and afternoon , and who will be at the stop to put them on and take them off. I am in South Carolina , and the bus driver here will not allow the child to get off unless an adult is there waiting for them. Thank God for these drivers.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 08/16/07 - 12:17 pm
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In our neighborhood, I would

In our neighborhood, I would faint with relief if I EVER saw a parent supervising a child, never mind being home when the child gets dropped off. I don't know what other parents do, but over the years, whenever I tried to call the BOE or the transportation department, it was a long time long time before I would get an answer if I ever did get an answer. The BOE was the worst, especially after they moved into the new building. Transportation eventually would answer, but it takes too long. When children don't get off a bus, something is generally wrong, and time is critical. They should have more lines open and more people manning the phones at peak times, even if it means getting part-timers in there. I hope things will improve under the new superintendent. Kudos to Sallie Thomas for having the guts to speak up and fight for her fellow drivers and her students' safety, my honor students say she was one of their two favorite bus drivers and they have been in Richmond County Public School System all their lives, and at the magnet schools all their middle school and highschool years. When they see her in public they still say with sheer pleasure "Mom, there's Ms. Sallie!"

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 08/16/07 - 12:30 pm
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Motherofchild, thank you for

Motherofchild, thank you for letting us know. I just read your posts. That was quite a domino effect of events. My family never had problems like that when Principal Paula Baker was there. I don't know who is the principal now, but I hope she or he can prevent this from happening again. The first days of school are extremely hectic and it is too easy for things to go wrong. Extra vigilance to detail is needed. Maybe this incident will be the catalyst for a lot of positive changes for start-up next year. I am so thankful your child was found by that couple and not some evil person and I applaud you speaking out. and not letting it go. Weak links in communication and red tape cannot be allowed when it comes to vulnerable children, I hope they can be corrected, so this does not happen again in this school system. Your child is blessed to have you as a mom.

Auntie
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Auntie 08/16/07 - 01:32 pm
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Good job Mother of

Good job Mother of Child...........we know you are a GREAT parent. Thank you for taking the time to set it straight. There is no excuse for ignorance. We know the truth and are happy with the outcome given today in the newspaper. Love ya!

cris5374
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cris5374 08/16/07 - 03:25 pm
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to mother of child: u are

to mother of child: u are more a lady then i , because i would have showed my puerto rican #@$%, you are right they almost killed your baby, . some idiot the other day said where was the mother, and i thought to myself , she was where she needed to be ,thats why she arranged for after school care!- but my newest problem is with the the person that signs on here as deborah elliott2, she needs to read over wht she wrote , and tell me if i read right.... basically whAT YOU said was that if i slap you, and in turn youshoot some one in the head, then i am a murderer?

EdithPiaf
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EdithPiaf 08/16/07 - 11:02 pm
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This makes me want to give my

This makes me want to give my 6 year old a cell phone that she can use only to call me or her grandma in case something happens!

Son of God
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Son of God 08/19/07 - 11:41 am
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Mother of Emma, bus driver,

Mother of Emma, bus driver, principal, and all readers and respondees to this posting, May Gob Bless you and continue to watch over you as you continue to walk in love and forgiveness. Thank you Mother for continuing to allow your precious jewel to attend C. T. Walker School. Oftentimes we strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. The administration was so carefully planning that they forgot to plan carefully and safely. I truly understand your pain mother and God will reward you for allowing Emma to stay at thet school. Dr. Bedden did not waste time addressing this issue and made immediate reprimands. It could have been worse. The change in personnel was a great help or you probably would be more outraged. Be blessed and continue to do God's will. You are what God says that you are and not what people sat that you are. You do not have to ANSWER to anyone but GOD. You are a good parent because God says that you are one. MAN is an unsafe example, so FOLLOW JESUS. PSALM 118:8

50skid
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50skid 08/19/07 - 01:02 pm
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Instead of spending tax

Instead of spending tax dollars on a lawsuit, why not have criminal "child endangerment" charges filed?

ConsiderThis
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ConsiderThis 08/19/07 - 06:55 pm
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I have been reading the

I have been reading the exchanges to listen and learn. Some great ideas have been shared and it is wonderful to read the support and encouragement being offered to the parents, students, and staff. This was an incident that we hope never repeats itself. Please note that there is usually more to a situation that school officials have to consider and also are not aloud to discuss by law when related to personnel matters. I ask that each of you also consider this: 1) How stretched the DOT is with trying to transport students to and from schools and meet the needs of the special request programs, field trips, etc. The department puts every bus on the street (about 200), needs updated technology and resources (phone system, etc.). All of this cost, so in the end, some tough choices are going to have to be made about what we do as a school system and how we do it iwithn the dollars being allocated. I am glad this child is safe and pray that she has a wonderful and safe school year. May the parents also find forgiveness and peace as the year goes on. Please accept my apology on behalf of RC employees.

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