School loses Victoria student riding bus

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Aug. 26, 2013 at 3:26 a.m.
Updated Aug. 27, 2013 at 3:27 a.m.

Amanda Trevino, 30, paced the halls of her son's elementary school in a hot panic Monday morning.

Almost an hour and a half had passed from the time she had placed her 5-year-old autistic son on the school bus, and he was nowhere to be found on campus.

He was dropped off at the wrong campus.

Gavyn Suniga, 5, boarded his special needs bus at 7 a.m., 30 minutes after the bus' scheduled arrival to the Victoria family's home.

"I knew it was going to be a busy day for them, so I didn't think anything of it," Trevino said.

The mother got on the bus with her son to greet his bus driver and bus aide, where they assured her that Gavyn would arrive to Schorlemmer Elementary School safely, Trevino said.

But it was 8:20 a.m., and there was no news of where her son had been dropped off.

Then, six minutes later, Trevino said she got a call on her cellphone from a Chandler Elementary School secretary telling her they had found her son.

"I was livid," Trevino said. "Anything could have happened to him."

The secretary said a teacher found Gavyn wandering the hallways after the first bell, Trevino said.

"It's a good thing I wrote his full name all over the stuff in his backpack," Trevino said. "I totally get that the first day of school is hectic, but there's no excuse for this."

Abel Balli Jr., the Victoria school district's supervisor for special needs drivers and monitors, had a bus there as soon as the child was found at Chandler, said Diane Boyett, school district communications director.

"I want to know what that aide was thinking," said Edna Trevino, Gavyn's grandmother. "Do I need to start riding the bus with him?"

During her panic, Trevino said she would have appreciated some more immediate honesty from campus administrators.

"The secretary at Schorlemmer flat-out lied to me when I asked her if she knew where he was," Trevino said. "She was telling me that he was still on the bus when she knew he wasn't. I know she was just trying to calm me down, but I didn't need to be lied to."

At the end of the school day when Trevino went back to Schorlemmer to pick up Gavyn at around 3:30 p.m., VISD Superintendent Robert Jaklich met the mother at the campus to provide an explanation.

Gavyn got on the right bus Monday morning at his home but boarded the wrong second bus, Jaklich told Trevino.

After making its first stops in the morning, Gavyn's bus meets other buses at another location where students take other buses to their campuses, he said.

"But the paperwork was right," Trevino said. "It was the bus driver and the aide who failed to make sure he got on the right bus."

While Trevino said she appreciated the superintendent owning up to the transportation department's mistakes, she doesn't plan to keep her autistic son on the bus.

"The superintendent was very honest and admitted it was an error on their part," Trevino said. "He apologized for that and the communications errors made by the secretary."

Of the 10 special needs buses in VISD, nine go through a transfer point at the transportation department's gated headquarters, said Boyett.

"But not all of those students make a transfer," she said.

Twelve students were on Gavyn's bus, Boyett said.

"We're taking full responsibility for this," the communications director said. "All parents should expect that every child we bus will be safe."

Trevino said she was surprised to learn about the second pickup point.

"I didn't even have the second bus number," Trevino said. "Maybe if it would have been any of my other children it wouldn't have been as bad because they can talk, but Gavyn can't."

Her other children will continue to ride the bus, but she will take Gavyn to school on her own from now on, Trevino said.

"This should serve as an eye-opener for the district," Trevino said. "You just can't make mistakes like that."



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