News September 2, 2021

Preschooler seen left behind on school bus, surveillance footage shows

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Stock photo.

Bus driver shortages have been a problem across the country, but student supervision is still a top priority to get kids to school safely.

School bus surveillance video released by Rio Ranchos Public Schools in New Mexico showed an attendant and a driver walking down the aisle of the bus to check for any remaining students on Aug. 17. The video appears to show them only looking at seats on one side of the bus.

However, once they got off the bus, the top of a child's head can be seen behind one of the seats next to a window on the side they appeared not to check.

Officials said it was only after the school principal at Shining Star Preschool, part of the Rio Rancho Public School district, called the parents about attendance that they realized a child may still be on the bus.

The preschooler was left unattended for nearly 40 minutes but was found safe and healthy.

Bethany Pendergrass, the school's chief communications, strategy and engagement officer, told ABC News: "It's something that we're taking very seriously."

"Our first thought is always around student safety and always finding out what went wrong and what we need to do to fix the issue," she continued.

All the staff involved in the incident are on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, ABC News Albuquerque affiliate KOAT reported.

In a statement to ABC News, the attendant said: “Drivers and attendants are stretched thin as dispatchers are scrambling to cover all the bus routes. Sometimes we don’t know daily what to expect. Some drivers are doing triple routes in one morning and have been asked to do so without special needs attendants. So results such as this one will occur. I’m just happy the child was unharmed and is safely with its family.”

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Stock photo.

This comes at a time when school districts across the country have massive shortages of drivers.

Steve Simmons, president of National Association of Pupil Transportation, told ABC News the problem is having a widespread impact.

"It's starting to hurt parents now with the busses not being able to just show up on time or not show up at all," he said. "School districts are now having to curtail their service levels."

Experts recommend that parents talk to their children to prepare them for emergencies, like what to do if they are left on a bus. Parents and students should come up with a plan for how to contact a guardian in case of this type of emergency.