Parents question FWCS procedures after they say son boarded school bus without staff’s knowledge

Parents question FWCS procedures after son boards school bus without schools knowledge
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 11:46 AM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - Family members of a young Haley Elementary School student voiced concerns about Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) procedures after they say their son boarded a bus without the staff’s knowledge.

The parents of the 5-year-old boy, who has special communications needs, and attends all-day kindergarten, say school personnel told them the boy was “lost”. They say after school on Monday, the boy didn’t go home with his father, who picks him up each day in a car.

The boy’s mother, Shania Pernell, told Fort Wayne’s NBC she called the Fort Wayne Police Department after school officials couldn’t tell her the last time staff saw her son. Pernell says officers arrived to help search, a search that took nearly two hours.

Pernell says she received word that the boy got on a school bus with a friend and ended up at that child’s home before being returned to her. She also says she didn’t know the friend or that child’s family.

“Very frustrating because he’s five,” Pernell says. “And, like I said, he has a cognitive delay. He did not know what was going on, and we could still be looking for him right now if it wasn’t for the police department being involved. And then, also, the principal didn’t really offer any closure for the situation. Like I said, his teacher hasn’t, and I just hope that FWCS and Haley can be more precautious, so this doesn’t happen to anybody else’s child.”

Alijah Long, the boy’s father, says, “I asked him how, what made him get on the bus, and he just said his friend. So, honestly, regardless of how he got on the bus, I’m not mad at him. I feel like it’s more so their problem. They were aware of his cognitive delay, so I feel like they should have had eyes on him.”

A district spokesperson for FWCS says while she couldn’t go into detail about what took place with this student, in particular, she provided the following statement:

“All of our schools have procedures for releasing students at the end of the day. It is important that students and staff follow these procedures to make sure students get home safely. Today, the procedures were reviewed with Haley staff, who were reminded that children don’t always realize the consequences of choosing to leave school with a friend instead of their normal mode of transportation. All of our staff members will continue to be vigilant in making sure students leave school safely.”