Panicked parents furious with school board

Dave Stewart
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Austin, 7 and Keirstin Rodgers, 9, of Tracadie were dropped off from a summer program and left alone by a bus driver last week.

Martin Rodgers of Tracadie said he got the scare of his life last Friday.

Rodgers arrived at Sherwood Elementary School in Charlottetown to find his two children, 7 and 9 years old, crying.

They had spent the day in the Canadian Red Cross’s week-long swim program. He arrived at 4:12 p.m., expecting to be early for the scheduled 4:20 p.m. drop off.

He pulled into the parking lot and saw his kids under a tree by themselves, seeking shade from the hot day. They are crying.

Rodgers said the bus driver dropped them off, told them to find some shade under a tree and left them there alone. They were the only children that were dropped off at Sherwood school. The other children on the bus would have been transported to other drop-off locations.

No one knows how long the two young children were left alone but the English Language School Board said it wouldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.

“I was scared,’’ Rodgers said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never been so scared and so mad at the same time in my life.’’

Scared because of what could have happened, he said. Two young children left alone in an unfamiliar setting.

Nicole Rodgers, Martin’s wife, said a million things went through her head when he called and told her what happened.

“Anything could have happened,’’ Nicole said. “There are predators out there. A school parking lot is the perfect place to pick up two kids, especially when you see them crying and scared. When he filled me in on what happened I was shaking. They could have been abducted, I might never have seen them again. Everything goes through your head.’’

Nicole said her daughter told her they were scared and that she didn’t know what to do — stay in an empty parking lot or seek help from neighbours in the area.

Martin and Nicole said there’s no excuse for a bus driver to drop two young children off without making sure someone was there to pick them up.

Jim Cummings, director of corporate services for the English Language School Board, said on Friday the bus was running a little early.

“The driver indicated the students were dropped off at Sherwood school in a safe location,’’ Cummings said. “The parents were going to be there to pick them up. It was less than 10 minutes. It was deemed to be a safe drop-off location.’’

Cummings said the school board is in ongoing talks with the Red Cross, which contracted the school buses, to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Martin and Nicole want the bus driver disciplined but Cummings would not comment on the matter.

“That would be an internal issue. We don’t get into discussing that type of thing,’’ Cummings said.

Laura Montigny, provincial director for the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Red Cross, said an incident report was filed immediately.

“We are certainly looking at steps to take and this is never going to happen again,’’ Montigny said.

The Red Cross is talking to the school board about potential changes to that effect. A new policy could see parents told to be at the pickup/dropoff locations at least 30 minutes ahead of time (current policy is 10 minutes), Red Cross staff, which are on the buses for the first few days would be required to accompany the kids the entire week and if the bus driver notices there is no one there to pick up children, he or she is to call a Red Cross staff member right away.

Montigny said the bus driver in this incident did call but didn’t call when he should have. Martin and Nicole contend that phone call never happened.

Montigny said she spoke with Martin on Friday about the incident and has met with the couple since then.

The school board offered to have the bus driver apologize but Martin said he isn’t interested in an apology and declined the offer.

“He put my kids’ lives in danger,’’ Martin Rodgers said.

Montigny said both the Red Cross and the school board is taking this incident very seriously.

“It will never happen again,’’ she said emphatically.

Organizations: Red Cross, Sherwood Elementary School, English Language School Board

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Teacher
    January 18, 2015 - 08:28

    As a teacher, parents come up with all kinds of excuses to drop their kids off in the classroom way to early, before the official opening time, and expect me to babysit. If the parents weren't at the drop off point, it is on them! Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. If you do not want your kids left alone, BE THERE ON TIME!

  • Sam Wicker
    December 22, 2014 - 09:14

    The bus drivers job is to pick up and drop off students either at school/home or in this case at the designated stop. It is NOT TOO BABYSIT them until there parents show up regardless if the bus is early or not..

  • Oh no!
    July 11, 2014 - 15:37

    Current policy sates arrive 10 minutes before drop of. Drop of was 4:20. Father arrived 4:12. He was late. It works both ways....

  • Good Grief
    July 11, 2014 - 13:34

    Perhaps some of the negative commenters don't have young children of their own. I can completely understand the parents being upset and the kids being scared, left alone in a place they had never been before. Good for them for speaking out. Not enough people do on PEI when they are upset about something. They worry what people will think, or what people will write in the online comments section of the paper. If I were in their shoes, I'd be angry myself.

  • Omg
    July 11, 2014 - 07:52

    The same people who say there is no issue are likely the same group that would call the police if hey saw a kid alone in a car outside a gas station.

  • concerned parent
    July 11, 2014 - 05:58

    What if these kids were abducted or went into somebody's home. Who would be to blame then? Just because they were alright and we're safely with their parents within 10-15 minutes, this could have had a bad ending. Even Sherwood has registered/convicted sex offenders living there. Maybe a few to many of them, not to mention bullies, drug Addicts, alcoholics, drunk drivers... the list goes on. Who would you paint the finger at to blame if they ran into any of these people? The island isn't prefect. We have 14 year old Crack Addicts, people. Meth Addicts. Sherwood doesn't seen so safe now does it?

  • justin
    July 11, 2014 - 03:09

    Do parents on PEI not teach their kids anything? First of all I am quite surprised these kids didn't have cellphone. Secondly what parents doesn't teach their kids basic skills if left alone for any length of time. What would happen to these kids if they were evr left alone when they were at school or got lost from their parents in strange place like a mall. These parents show the problems today that we are raising kids who will be unequipped to become useful members of society.

  • nitpicker
    July 10, 2014 - 19:54

    The reality is, its quite subjective as to whether or not the driver was right, wrong, or if the kids were in danger. If the driver (likely to have had kids of his own) thought the children were in danger he probably wouldn't have left them there. If the parents are that panicked and furious over their kids being alone, then I would suggest that arriving 8 minutes prior to the scheduled drop-off is not nearly early enough.

  • Denise
    July 10, 2014 - 17:11

    I cant believe some of the comments on here! These CHILDREN are not from the Charlottetown area, as stated in the article, they would not know a safe place to go vs. if they were dropped off in their own neighbourhood. How would you feel if your "unsheltered" city kids were dropped off in Summerside, or Morell by themselves. These parents have every right to be upset and go public. If they hadn't guaranteed it would be swept under the rug, and other parents would not be aware. A simple phone call to the parents that the bus was running early would have solved it all. Nicole and Martin... I hope there is a satisfactory outcome for you, and this never happens again!!! As a side note, perhaps these children were not wearing a watch (due to swimming) and not aware that only ten minutes or so had passed. That amount of time can seem like forever when your little and afraid.

    • Rose
      July 11, 2014 - 13:32

      "...they would not know a safe place to go..." They didn't have to go anywhere. They were dropped off exactly where their parents were supposed to pick them up. The parents are doing a poor job of preparing these kids for the world.

  • Sasha Burkittg
    July 10, 2014 - 14:38

    These children were from TRACADIE.. they do not go to Sherwood school, that was just a the drop off point. So these children were left ALONE in an UNFAMILIAR AREA not knowing when their parents would be there to pick them up. They were scared and crying, yup if I were the parents of these children I would have been pissed too.

  • Jocelyn
    July 10, 2014 - 12:48

    For all of you that think these parents overreacted, I ask you long do you think parents could leave a 7 and 9 year old in the car alone at the grocery store before someone called the police and kicked up a stink that the parents were being irresponsible? I'm not talking hot car in the summer, just a cool day in the fall. We would be reading 50 comments about how awful they were for leaving their kids alone! This is no different. If these children are not old enough to be left home alone without an adult, they should not have been dropped off and left by this bus driver. Especially considering he left them BEFORE the agreed upon drop off time. Shame on him!

  • How is this even a story?
    July 10, 2014 - 12:40

    I am not understanding how this is even a story. What about all of the children who walk to school and back every day by themselves?? I don't see the breaking news stories on those children who are left to their own device to navigate the surly streets of PEI. Those children are at as much risk of abduction as these two kids were. I can see how maybe they would be a little nervous to be standing there alone, but I don't think 9 is that young to have some sense about her to not panic and wait til her father arrived. At 9, I played in the neighbourhood alone with all the other children and my mom didn't see me until the street lights came on.

    • Parent's choice
      July 10, 2014 - 13:40

      The difference is that these parents left their child in someone else's care, they did not make the choice to leave them alone. When a parent lets their child walk to school, the mall, etc, it is their choice to make. They know their children well enough to make that judgement call. In this case the parents did not choose to leave their children unattended.

    • Parent's choice
      July 10, 2014 - 13:52

      The difference is that these parents left their child in someone else's care, they did not make the choice to leave them alone. When a parent lets their child walk to school, the mall, etc, it is their choice to make. They know their children well enough to make that judgement call. In this case the parents did not choose to leave their children unattended.

  • Hmm
    July 10, 2014 - 11:28

    I think it goes without saying that a bus driver should not leave children alone unattended like this. Why not wait with the kids until their father arrived? The parents are right that something could have happened and the kids probably felt lost and abandoned. Their anger is understandable, though, I don't think the lives of the children were at risk. Their safety was put in jeopardy but not their lives.

  • paul
    July 10, 2014 - 09:41

    Melissa read the story he was 8 min early . Each kid today is different on what and how this would affect them , so we can judge all we want. The fact of the matter is , it was not good for these children , so the parrent went public , which he should of.

    • Not news
      July 10, 2014 - 10:11

      While I agree that every kid is affected differently by uncomfortable situations the problem lies in how quick the parents turned to make this a story. This is not news. This is at most a private matter between a concerned parent and The Red Cross. Another open and close case of parents pointing fingers because they aren't willing to admit that maybe they have some learning to do.

    • Sometimes it has to be
      July 10, 2014 - 10:22

      As the parent of young children this would have me seeing red as well. You don't drop children off and leave them unsupervised and alone. And unfortunately if the parents hand contacted the Guardian about this , the School Board most likely wouldn't have even acknowledged that it happened.

    • huh
      July 10, 2014 - 19:39

      Its not clear to me why they went "public". We can argue till the end of the day as to the level of risk to the kids. Some parents say "no big deal" others are horrified. Whatever. There's no right or wrong answer. I just find the big media story, complete with a submitted photo of two sad looking kids, a little over the top. If I have a problem with the handling of my kids, I deal with the issue privately.

  • IslandWoman
    July 10, 2014 - 09:38

    Talk about sheltered. The kids presumably knew their parents were going to pick them up why freak out? These parents should try and promote a little more independence in their kids instead of blaming others. The older one is old enough to look after the younger one for 10 minutes.

    • dora
      July 10, 2014 - 13:13

      really you should look into the law about that...children have to be 12 years of age to stay at home on there own...I take it you do not have kids...

    • IslandWoman
      July 10, 2014 - 13:40

      Wrong, dora. There is no age limit, and kids take babysitting courses at age 11/12. They should be comfortable being alone well before that. How else would they learn?

  • Melissa
    July 10, 2014 - 09:21

    Be on time to pick up your children. Seriously, this is pathetic.

    • dora
      July 10, 2014 - 13:10

      I think you need to read the story again they were there early to pick up the kids...the bus driver dropped them off early as well

  • parent33
    July 10, 2014 - 09:14

    Not to be insensitive to this situation but if this were my children they would have headed straight for the playground and enjoyed some free time before myself or my husband picked them up. My reaction would be to make sure I'm a few mins early the next day picking them up

  • Time's they are a changin
    July 10, 2014 - 08:39

    This is wonder people are becoming more and more hesitant to take on any responsibilities involving other peoples children. Parents today are coddling their kids to the extent that they are remaining dependant up to an unhealthy age with no life skills of their own. At 9 years old my elementary school was providing babysitting courses. If it was an hour or two then yes..concern is meritted...but 12 minutes? Also...that photo is ridiculous...they look like the family pet just died. Stop making a story out of nothing.

  • Times are a changin
    July 10, 2014 - 08:38

    This is wonder people are becoming more and more hesitant to take on any responsibilities involving other peoples children. Parents today a coddling their kids so much that they are remaining dependant up to an unhealthy age. At 9 years old my elementary school was providing babysitting courses. If it was an hour or two then yes..concern is meritted...but 12 minutes? Also...that photo is ridiculous...they look like the family pet just died. Stop making a story out of nothing.

  • Ryan Gallant
    July 10, 2014 - 08:27

    An oversight that the parents should bring to the attention of the Red Cross? Perhaps. Newsworthy? No.

  • idiocracy
    July 10, 2014 - 08:13

    I'm sorry to hear the children were scared, but I think this brings up a good point about how some children are being raised today. Their mother listed off all the terrible things that could have happend, very scary indeed. But if we raise kids to be frightened of every little hing that 'might' happen, we are setting them up to fail. Its one thing to protect our children, its another to make them scared of any surrounding that isn't familiar. We need to teach them what to do in situations like this, who to go to, and how to be independent.

  • Sue
    July 10, 2014 - 08:09

    "there’s no excuse for a bus driver to drop two young children off without making sure someone was there to pick them up" I agree and would be upset if that ever happened to my children

  • Things like this has happened before...
    July 10, 2014 - 08:05

    I remember my bus driver dropped me off at my home in the middle of January when I was quite young my mothers car wasn't home which wasn't normal, so I mentioned that I didn't think she was home to my driver... She told me " she's home! She wouldn't leave you by yourself... Now I'm running late and have to go. " well I got off the bus went up too the , it was locked... Freezing cold out I went into an old car we had in the back yard to wait... Well after 2 hours my neighbour came to get me... I was absolutely terrified and bawling my eyes out... I'll never forget it..she was right my mom would never leave me by she got into a bad accident on the way home to meet me because of icy roads A friend of the family came acrossed it and came to learn I wasn't with them and called my neighbour to go check the house to see if I was there... It's situations like this that could happen... My mother wasn't able to speak for herself at that point in time to tell anyone I would have been dropped off with no one there on a cold winters day.. Without that person noticing I wasn't there lord knows how long it could have been out there. Bus drivers have to take things like this happening into account... I'm sure 9 times out of 10 it could only be a quick minute they have to wait... Or ten, but there's always that chance that something has happened ( or could happen ) very easily...

  • Chicken Little
    July 10, 2014 - 07:56

    If this is an event that terrifies you and your kids then I pity the kids. They are never going to be prepared for like and they will be afraid of their own shadows because you act hysterically at the smallest event.

  • GARY
    July 10, 2014 - 07:54

    I have to agree with Billy. Kids are way too sheltered these days, and we cannot blame the kids because it is the parents who cannot turn their head for one second without worrying if their kid got abducted. It's hard to blame the parents too since we see these stories in the news all the time - it is society's fault I suppose, nothing towards the Rodgers' as 99.9% of parents would do the same thing today. Kids definitely need a little more freedom though, to go play in the woods, or learn how to use a pocket knife, or how to make a fire. Lessons learned from bumps and bruises and mistakes turn into good problem solving skills later in life.

  • guy currie
    July 10, 2014 - 07:45

    Another non issue. Kids are 7 and 9 and will face much larger challenges throughout their youth if their parents continue to be hyperprotective. Not a good lesson to send to your kids

  • Shelby
    July 10, 2014 - 07:04

    So sad to hear that the children were scared. But my question is, was there not other children dropped off at the same location? If so, how come their parents were there to pick up their children.

    • Jocelyne Lloyd, web editor
      July 10, 2014 - 09:06

      Sorry if this wasn't clear in the story, but these were the only two children for this stop. The driver took the other children on the bus to other stops. Jocelyne Lloyd, web editor

  • andrew
    July 10, 2014 - 06:30

    its not a baby sitting service, i can just imagine how many times bus drivers have sat around because parents lost track of time . make parents get there 30 minutes early and charge them $5 per minute if they are late

    • Susan
      July 13, 2014 - 11:27

      It IS a babysitting service. The parents no doubt paid for this camp to provide child care for their children. They didn't expect the bus hired by the babysitting/camp service to literally dump the kids alone by the side of the road.

  • reality
    July 10, 2014 - 06:06

    if they were not used to it ,even the incessant cawing of crows prevalent in various places in stratford would be very upsetting for them --the driver is at fault

    • Truth Seeker
      Truth Seeker
      July 10, 2014 - 09:38

      Why would the cawing of crow be scary? I have four children and I can assure you that they do not walk through the world everyday with fear in their hearts. The driver could have done a better job of preparing these kids for life outside the safety of their home.

    • Truth Seeker
      Truth Seeker
      July 10, 2014 - 10:34

      The "parents" not the driver, my mistake.

  • Billy
    July 10, 2014 - 05:57

    What is this world coming your kids were left at a drop off pt for 20 mins get over it! Our kids cannot do anything on their own today...parents are sheltering them way too much! We had to walk 30 minutes to get to school and we survived! Teach your kids what to do in an event as such and stop wanting the province to do everything for you for god sakes! Sad sad the parents today and whats real sad is a kid of todays generation raised by protective parents as such one day willbe running our COUNTRY!

  • Drop of locations
    July 10, 2014 - 05:21

    If there is a "drop off location" that indicated they have a schedule and as such, the bus should have stayed there until the agreed upon drop off time and remained for an acceptable time frame to ensure all children are pick up.

    • pj
      July 10, 2014 - 07:25

      I totally understand their being upset!! If you enlist your children to someone else's care they should provide the best/ safest care possible! When people walked 30 minutes to school I doubt that the things happening today were as frequent then!! This Island is crawling with tourist and sometimes people aren't cautious enough! Small children shouldn't be dumped!! period!