7-year-old left on bus for hours; Guilford County Schools suspends driver

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Grandmother Melissa Taylor wants to prevent another child from being left behind on the school bus.

Taylor said she and Alayshia’s mother were notified at 2:30 p.m. Monday that the 7-year-old student had spent most of the day alone on the school bus.

Like most students who attend the magnet school, Alayshia rides two buses to Bluford STEM Academy. Alayshia and another student fell asleep during the ride, yet the driver only found one of the students.

Alayshia was found by a principal in the unlocked bus in the parking lot of Grimsley High School.

“Alayshia told me that when she woke up she was crying and she was looking around and she was scared,” Taylor said. “It could have been a very cold day, it could have been a very hot day; I mean anything could have happened.”

She was then taken to Bluford, fed and then her mother was notified of what had happened.

Transportation Director Jeff Harris said the Guilford County Schools Transportation Department has implemented some form of protocol system in place for bus drivers since the late 1990s as a way to remind drivers to check the buses for items, students and even weapons.

“To the parents, extreme apologies, this is an unnecessary event because we do have guidelines in place to prevent these types of incidents from happening. And we're all about children so we don't want anything to happen to our children,” Harris said.

Harris said the first system is the "All Out" flag. The orange laminated flag printed with reminders is used to ensure "that each driver physically walks from the driver’s seat to the rear of the bus each trip.”

When the bus is in motion the flag is stored near the driver’s seat.

All bus models 2002 and newer are equipped with a "Child Reminder" system above the rear emergency door or above the last passenger window.

Harris said it activates when the stop arm is in use. When the bus is parked the system monitor button has to be pushed.

A horn and alarm system will sound until the button at the rear is pushed.

Harris said the bus Alayshia rode was equipped with the child reminder system; however the driver had deactivated it after finding the first student asleep.

The driver of 21 years is on suspension for failing to properly check the bus while human resources conducts an investigation as to if the driver will be terminated.

Harris said they plan to make changes to their protocol and notify all their bus drivers to ensure this will not happen again.