Monday, August 27, 2007

What Other Districts Do with Misplaced Children on Buses

I got on the horn and called around a little. This is what I was told:

Chicago Public Schools: Spoke with a department employee. On district buses, drivers are in constant contact with dispatch. If an misplaced child (whose parents haven't yet called in a panic) is on the wrong bus, the child is taken to the nearest Park District location and turned over to the police for safekeeping until the parents are located and the child returned home safely. If drivers in contact with dispatch are able to match up missing parents and children, other steps may be taken, or the child may be taken to a Park District site so the police can return them home.

Rockford District 205: Spoke with the director there, Gregg Wilson. Drivers check children's names off a list, and children are not allowed to get off at the wrong stop. (This might not have helped if Diane's son's name was on the wrong list.) If the child says, "This isn't my stop" and/or starts to cry, the driver immediately stops, tries to call dispatch, and returns to the terminal with the child. He said that during the first few days of school, the amount of radio traffic can make calling in to dispatch difficult or impossible, but that drivers attempt to do so and may use personal cell phones to call in via phone. He also said that parents are always notified as soon as they are aware of a misplaced child, told where the child is, and given a time estimate on how long it will be before their child is returned to them. He usually speaks with parents personally. He expressed surprise that 150 would have problems with radio contact among the buses (unless it was first-week traffic overload) and confidence that our transpo people here are good and would resolve the situation. His secretary informed me that when a child is misplaced or missing, nobody in the department goes home until the child is found.

Edited to add: Rockford did tell me they actually had exactly this problem today, a little boy who had the same first name as another little boy and ended up on the wrong bus, then freaked out and said to the driver, "I don't live here," and Wilson told me it went down basically exactly as detailed above. He also did emphasize that these errors do happen, that it's a terrible thing, but they do happen. Which seems to me all the more reason to have a policy in place!

I called a few suburban districts, but their transportation directors had already gone home for the day.

I did not attempt to call Michael Sullivan -- it's too late in the day now (I initially posted at 4:30 as the timestamp says but edited as I got more info from making calls) -- so I did not have an opportunity to request the official District 150 policy for these situations. But it seems clear that there either is no policy, as Diane was told by lower-level officials, or that policy was not followed if 150's policy is similar to Chicago's or Rockford's.

1 comment:

Diane Vespa said...

Excellent points. I'm surprised I didn't think of them myself!