North Thurston bus driver resigns after kindergartner is left on bus for 7 hours

A North Thurston Public Schools substitute bus driver resigned Wednesday morning after a kindergartner was left alone on a bus for about seven hours, according to district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve.

The 6-year-old boy, who has special needs, was discovered asleep on the bus at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday by sheriff’s deputies, school workers and the boy’s foster parent, Schrieve said.

“We’re just glad the kid is safe,” she said.

Originally, the boy’s foster mother thought that another person had picked the child up from day care, so she didn’t contact authorities right away, Schrieve said.

“There was confusion about a custodial visit,” she said.

The district conducted an investigation into the incident Wednesday morning. It included interviewing the driver and pulling video that was taken from the bus, which is much smaller than a conventional school bus.

“We can look at it and determine the kid was on the bus,” Schrieve said of the video footage. “In this case, they saw that he was on the bus. It’s just that he never got off the bus.”

The driver told officials he didn’t see the boy on the bus during the afternoon run from Lydia Hawk Elementary School, so he didn’t stop at the child’s day care center, Schrieve said.

Later, when he parked the bus in the district’s transportation yard on Carpenter Road, he said he didn’t follow all of the procedures, including a mandatory walk-through, she said.

“You’re not supposed to just look through the rear view mirror,” Schrieve said. “You’re required to do a walk-through and he did not do that.”

The driver, who was hired and completed the district’s bus driver training during the summer, was remorseful and admitted to the mistake, she said.

North Thurston superintendent Raj Manhas directed school officials to look at “what else we can be doing as a system to ensure that all kids are accounted for” when riding school buses, Schrieve said.