Bus driver drops 5-year-old at wrong stop, hands her over to a stranger
ALOHA, Ore. - Imagine waiting for your young child to come home from school, going out to meet him or her at the bus stop and then realizing they aren't on the school bus. And then you're told your child was dropped off somewhere else.
That's what happened to Charollette Mandich. Every school day, she meets her 5-year-old daughter, Natalia, at a bus stop in Aloha. The girl goes to Errol Hassell Elementary School.
But on Wednesday, her daughter was not there and the bus driver told her the girl had been dropped off already.
"I was terrified," Mandich said. "I really thought she was lost, that a stranger had picked her up."
"Your worst fear just kicks in," she added. "You try to stay calm, but I just started crying because I didn't know what to do."
Unbeknownst to the worried mother, her daughter had gotten off at a different bus stop and ended up with Jeremy Reisdorf, who was waiting to pick up his own kindergartner, MacKenzie.
"The guy (the bus driver) opened the door and he obviously looked pretty frazzled," Reisdorf said. "My daughter got off the bus and he is pausing there for a minute and says 'can you do me a favor and walk her (Natalia Mandich) across the street?" he said. "And I said 'yeah, that's fine.' "
The bus driver then drove off. The problem was that Natalia did not live across the street. That means not only did the bus driver drop her off with a man she had never met, but it wasn't even the girl's bus stop. Natalia was supposed to be dropped off a half-mile away.
The girl was eventually reunited with her mother when Reisdorf (pictured below) figured out there had been some type of mix-up and called the school, which got in contact with Charollette Mandich. Reisdorf ended up walking the girl home to make sure she got there safely.
"You know what, I hope anybody would have done the same thing," he said.
We pressed the Beaverton School District for answers and they admitted the driver made several mistakes. Of course, one of the main concerns is that the child could have been handed over to a predator. Fortunately, that wasn't the case in this instance and Natalia was in good hands, but it's still worrisome for parents.
"That's why we have a very strict policy and we don't vary from that policy without disciplinary measures," said Maureen Wheeler with the Beaverton School District.
"We took this situation very seriously," Wheeler added in a statement to KATU. "The driver did not follow the policy. We fully investigated. We took appropriate measures to address the issues. Unfortunately, we can not share personnel matters as they are confidential."
And what is the policy for kindergarten students? A parent or designated guardian must meet the student at a designated bus stop and if the parent or designated guardian cannot make eye contact or is not visible, the driver must call dispatch and keep the student on the bus. The bus driver can then attempt to drop off the student again at the end of the route.
Mandich said the director of transportation called and apologized, telling her that the driver is new and in training. The school district said that driver will be disciplined and retrained. It does not appear he will lose his job.
Still, Mandich is left with concerns.
"For me, whether they've been there 20 months or 20 years, common sense would be to keep a child on the bus," she said. "Especially if you're a new driver and you don't know the child and you don't know the child's parents."