Kindergartner missing for an hour after getting on wrong bus

Sept. 8, 2010 at 4:08 a.m.

When Jason Diaz saw his son's name crossed out on a notepad with the letters "LE" next to it last Tuesday, he panicked.

The teachers at Aloe Elementary school told him his 5-year-old son had already "left early" with his father.

"I am his father," Diaz said.

At that point, Diaz said he burst through school doors and ran through the hallways, yelling for his son. He checked classrooms and bathrooms, all the while trying not to let his imagination of his son's whereabouts get the best of him.

"It's the worst thing possible," Diaz said. "Someone took my son, and it wasn't me."

Twenty minutes earlier, at 2:30 p.m., Diaz said the school's office called his son out of class over the PA system, informing the teacher his father was there to pick up the kindergartner before school got out at 2:50.

Diaz's son was supposed to meet his father in the office but never arrived.

Diane Boyett, spokesperson for the Victoria Independent School District, said the child headed out the door to the office, as per procedure, and along the way saw a friend standing in a line outside and decided to talk with him.

A thunderstorm was frightening the children, and the child was put on the bus without being checked for a bus card, she said.

"A substitute aide let empathy for the children get the better of her," Boyett said. "That definitely has been addressed, and it will not happen again," she said.

Diaz said he called the police department soon after school let out, and someone suggested they call local day care centers to see if the boy accidentally got on one of their buses.

ABC Child Development Center was first on the list.

Patricia Ingram, owner of ABC Child Development, said her staff noticed an unfamiliar face get off one of their three school buses that afternoon, something not uncommon during the beginning of the school year.

"We have new faces almost every day for the first few weeks of school until everybody gets situated," Ingram said.

The staff was attempting to locate records of the child at the daycare when they got the phone call from Aloe Elementary, about 20 minutes after buses arrived, Ingram said.

"He was playing, fed, taken care of and not in danger at any time," Ingram said. "The best thing was for everybody to stay calm."

Diaz said he just wanted the school to address the procedural problem that led to the misunderstanding.

"It could happen to any kid," he said. "It was a big ordeal and very scary."

Ingram and Boyett said both of their respective facilities have reminded employees of the strict protocol they should follow regarding school dismissals.

Ingram said ABC Child Development staff checks each student in and off the bus, adding that staff will become more aware of kids' faces as the school year progresses.

Aloe Elementary's protocol states that one person should check each child with a bus card off of a roster before letting them on the appropriate bus.

"Yes, it was very unfortunate," Boyett said. "It probably seemed like an eternity (for the father). The school takes its responsibility for the safety of the children very seriously."

The substitute aide was also counseled and made aware of the matter, Boyett said.



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