Four-year-old Rashiem was excited to ride the school bus on his first day of school. His mom Keyana Darden put him on the bus but told him she would pick him up later.
Darden told 11 Alive News that she submitted paperwork to notify the school that he would be riding in a car for the rest of the week. But when she went to pick him up on Monday from Riverdale Elementary School in Cobb County, Georgia, he was not there.
— Chris Hopper (@ChrisHopperSH) August 8, 2017
Darden told 11 Alive:
“For two hours, I couldn’t find my baby. That’s all that was going through my head for those two whole hours, I probably wouldn’t get to see my baby no more.”
Fortunately, Rashiem was found running around on the streets two hours later. A neighbor named Laura Leslie saw him playing with her mailbox, and her motherly instinct immediately kicked in. She called the police when the boy couldn’t tell her where he lived.
Rashiem told his mom that he walked to a nearby gas station to buy a Lunchables before he was found by Leslie. Darden was happy to have her son back at home but wanted to share her story to hold the school district accountable for allowing him off the bus alone.
4-yr-old wasn't supposed to be on bus after 1st day Pre-K. Was dropped off alone. Woman finds him & calls police.
@Chris11Alive reports. pic.twitter.com/hNdYOvgpgP
— Cheryl Preheim (@CherylPreheim) August 8, 2017
According to the Cobb County School District Transportation Department website, children under the age of eight must have parents present at the bus stop in order to disembark. Younger riders also wear yellow tags on their book bags to differentiate them for bus drivers.
This is not the first time the school district has allowed young students to get off the bus alone.
In a Facebook Live interview, 11 Alive reporters shared that a 6-year-old girl had been dropped off at a bus stop alone and picked up by an investigator. The bus driver in that incident was fired.
Digging deeper into the story behind what lead to a local 4-year-old wandering the streets alone after mistakingly being dropped off at a bus stop he was never supposed to be at. Jennifer Bellamy 11Alive and Jennifer Leslie 11Alive have been telling you about this story all morning on #MorningRushATLFor the story: http://on.11alive.com/2vibF2A
Posted by 11Alive on Tuesday, August 8, 2017
According to CBS 46, Cobb County is facing bus driver shortages this year. The academic school year also started earlier in Cobb County than previous years.
As the school year is starting for many families around the U.S., the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) website recommends that parents take the time to teach their children about bus safety, including:
- Standing three steps away from the curb when waiting for a bus
- Using the handrails to go up the steps
- No running or playing at the bus stop
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting on and off
NHSTA estimates that it’s 70 times safer for children to ride the bus than to be driven to school.
Darden told 11 Alive that she received an apology from her son’s teacher, the school principal, and the bus driver. She plans to drive her son to school for the rest of the year.