KENTON COUNTY, Ky. (WKRC) – A 5-year-old boy was left alone on a school bus for hours while his parents and police frantically searched for him.
This happened on Monday evening. The boy was sitting in an empty bus in a Kenton County school district bus lot, all alone in the dark, for hours. Luckily, he slept through the whole ordeal.
The day started for the 5-year-old boy like any other Monday — going to class at Kenton Elementary. At the end of class, he boarded a bus to KinderCare where several kids are dropped off for after-school daycare. His aunt goes to pick him up at 5:30 p.m., but unlike any other day, the daycare says he was never dropped off.
“We’re actually preparing for the worst-case scenario at that point,” said Cpt. Russ Wood with the Independence Police Department. “We take everything at that point as a critical missing child.”
Police began searching for the boy and considering a possible kidnapping situation. After about an hour, his aunt, on a hunch, drove to the school bus lot and boarded his bus. There he was.
“The child had been sleeping and had no idea that he had, in fact, missed his stop,” said Wood. “Thank goodness he was unaware of any situation going on at that point.”
The school district is accepting full-blame for what happened.
“Bus drivers and bus monitors check their bus,” said Jess Dykes, the public information officer for the Kenton County School District. “And I know they have counters to make sure kids are getting on and off the bus. But obviously, a protocol was not followed.“
Luckily, the temperature was relatively mild. Children have died in similar incidents in extreme cold and extreme heat.
Child Checkmate Systems is a Canadian company that developed technology that forces drivers to check a bus before leaving it. Drivers must walk to the back of the bus and press a button. If they don’t and they try to leave the bus, an alarm goes off. Many states require electronic devices like this. Ohio does not. Indiana does for any buses manufactured after 2015. Kentucky requires the devices for all new buses. The bus in question in Kenton County was grandfathered in the fleet, so it was not equipped.
“It could have been an awful situation for us and the family,” said Wood. “Thank goodness everything worked out in our favor and the child returned safely to their family.“
Ohio and Kentucky do not require school districts to report incidents of children left on buses, so, it’s unclear how many of these incidents have actually happened in two legs of the Tri-State. Indiana does require reporting; it has averaged 24 incidents every year for the past 10 years. If you extrapolate Indiana’s numbers against the U.S. population, you could argue this happens to more than 1,000 kids across the country annually,
Dykes says this was a personnel matter, so it will not disclose whether the bus driver was disciplined.