The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 27, 2007

Area school districts review bus procedures

By Derek Spellman

dspellman@joplinglobe.com

SENECA, Mo. — There is no shoulder on the stretch of Business Highway 60 that skirts the Seneca school district’s bus barn.

There is a grassy embankment, and that is where the 4-year-old son of Jeff and Robyn Gordon, sometime after 12:20 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, began what he thought might be the journey back home.

The Gordon boy recalled that he lived on “a big road,” Robyn Gordon said, but he could not remember which one.

His path would take him toward the intersection of Business 60 and state Highway 43.

Around the noon hour on that stretch of road, trucks often rumble past, interspersed with cars moving through an area where the speed limit is 35 mph. Neighboring properties include a gas station, a car wash, liquor stores and the local Milnot plant.

The Gordons’ son wandered a bit, Robyn Gordon said, before he grew weary and stopped to rest on a concrete island in the nearby Oasis Car Wash.

He then resumed his journey, begun after he fell asleep on the school bus en route to his Early Childhood program. Neither the bus driver nor an aide noticed that the boy had not gotten off the bus with the five other children.

The youngster was picked up at about 12:50 p.m. by a Seneca city employee who spotted him walking on the roadside — flushed, upset, but otherwise unharmed.

Even well-meaning drivers with years of experience can make a mistake, said Seneca school officials and a representative from a company that informally tracks incidents where children are accidentally left behind on buses. At least two such incidents have occurred at other area school districts in recent years, and school districts have responded in different ways and disciplined the drivers in different ways.

How often?

The Seneca scenario is not a rare one, said Wendy Priolo, sales manager for CRS Electronics Inc., a company that manufactures safety alarm systems for school buses.

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