Lansing mom takes issue with bus drop off; company says driver followed protocol
LANSING - A Lansing mother says Dean Transportation officials haven't addressed her concerns after a bus driver drove past the assigned bus stop for her two first-graders and instead dropped them off further down the road.
Melisa Keck said she was standing at her children's bus stop on Valley Road on Tuesday afternoon and watched their bus go past without stopping.
Keck's two children, both 6 and students at Gier Park Elementary School, were on board.
Panicked, Keck said she ran the five-and-a-half blocks back to her home on Larch Street, and got in her car. She found her children running down Valley Road in tears, Keck said, past the bus stop where she had been waiting for them.
"I have no idea where they were dropped off," she said.
"Mommy, she told us to get off and walk home,'" one of Keck's children told her. "We told her, 'We don't know where home is.'"
Dean Transportation provides bus services for Lansing School District.
Thursday Dean Transportation spokesman Josh Hovey said he was aware of the incident, and that company officials have spoken with Keck about it.
The bus driver followed protocol, Hovey said, by turning around and dropping both children off at their stop, 1,500 feet from Keck's home, after realizing they were on the bus that afternoon. GPS confirmed where the bus stopped, Hovey said.
Keck said that isn't true. She said she found her children further down the road.
District policy requires that parents be present at bus stops only for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten age students, Hovey said, in an email to the State Journal.
"The policy is to circle back around and drop the child off at their stop," Hovey said.
'They didn't know where they were going'
Keck said Dean Transportation staff she contacted this week told her their records indicated her children should have been on a different bus that afternoon, one they take to reach their daycare.
But Keck said school staff knew her children were taking the bus home that day, and had confirmed with her that they were riding it prior to that afternoon.
Keck said the bus driver risked her children's safety by dropping them off after passing their stop.
"The children should have stayed on the bus until someone got a hold of me," Keck said. "She dropped my children off five blocks away from home and told them to walk. They didn't know where they were going. That's unacceptable to me."
Keck said she notified Gier Park Elementary School Principal Rebecca Stephens about what happened Wednesday morning.
A State Journal reporter left a message for Stephens Thursday morning.
Lansing School District spokesman Bob Kolt said Thursday a report of the incident will likely be filed by school staff, and communicated to Dean.
"We’re sad that it happened," he said. "We apologize that it happened. We are glad they are safe."
Kolt said busing issues can and do crop up in the first week of a new school year.
"We usually work through a number of logistical issues in the first week of school," Kolt said. "It’s unfortunate, but we work through them."
Christy Kalso lives just over a mile from Keck. Kalso said the incident with Keck's children is what her son, Jackson, 8, experienced in May.
Her son rides the same bus as Keck's children, she said. He was 7 in May when he fell asleep on the bus during a ride home, and missed the bus stop he shared with several other students.
The bus driver eventually stopped, 3 miles away from his stop, and told him to get off and walk home, Kalso said.
Kalso said Jackson was found wandering the neighborhood by a classmate's mother, who brought him home.
The incident traumatized him, Kalso said. She reached out to Dean Transportation officials after it happened, and was told the company would reemphasize training to its drivers, she said.
Thursday afternoon Hovey said a review of Dean's complaint logs and customer service records showed no indication of an incident that fits Kalso's description of what happened with her son.
"If that incident happened it would have been a fireable offense," Hovey said in an email.
Kalso said she took her son to school and picked him up herself for the remainder of last school year. She said this school year a different driver is assigned to that bus.
"I thought it was an isolated incident," Kalso said. "I was furious, but at the same time I thought this was a professional company. It's responsible for the transportation of Lansing students."
Kalso said she doesn't think Dean Transportation adequately addresses transportation issues like hers and Kecks — and that puts student safety at risk.
'We trust these people with our children'
Kolt said Dean Transportation, not the school district, would be responsible for implementing and enforcing any policies that dictate what bus drivers should or shouldn't do when students on their bus aren't dropped off at their stop.
"I do not believe there is any evidence to show a pattern of problems," Kolt said.
Dean Transportation also is conducting an investigation into bullying reported by Michael Martin, an Everett High School eighth grader who died by suicide seven months ago. A Dean employee who failed to return messages left by Joanna Wohlfert, Michael's mother, about bullying on the bus in January remains on indefinite leave.
Kalso said after she reached out to Dean's staff in May, she was told company policy mandates that bus drivers contact the bus garage staff when a student fails to get off a bus at their assigned stop.
She was told the policy indicates drivers should then wait to arrange pick up of the student with their legal guardian, rather than drop them off.
The company's website doesn't appear to outline that policy.
Hovey said company policy mandates that drivers return to a bus stop and drop students off if they miss that stop, or that they contact the bus garage to arrange for guardians to pick up those students.
Keck said her children won't be riding that bus for the rest of the school year.
"I'll just pick them up," she said. "I live on a busy road. What if they were hit by a car? It's not acceptable to me at all. We trust these people with our children."
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Contact Rachel Greco at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.
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