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Two fired after student with disabilities is left on bus for six hours

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at 11:11 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at 5:46 p.m.

Two state employees were dismissed for not following procedures after a 19-year-old student with severe disabilities was left nearly six hours on a school bus at a state school in Lee’s Summit.

The school has added procedures to try to prevent such a mistake in the future.

“It was just a devastating thing,” said Diane Odegard, administrator of Lakeview Woods State School. “We don’t want it to happen again, ever.”

The two people dismissed were staff members at the school who also serve as a driver and monitor for the bus company, First Student, Odegard said.

All bus workers are supposed to walk through their buses and make sure no one has been left behind before shutting the bus down.

But on the morning of Jan. 10, the student, who is in a wheelchair and is nonverbal, was left on the bus after other students were taken off and the bus was parked on the school site. The student was marked as being absent.

The student remained on the bus from 8:45 a.m. to around 2:30 p.m., when the driver went to prepare the bus to pick students up at the end of school.

When the student was discovered, staff members brought her inside and gave her something to drink. They called her family, and the school also called the state’s child abuse and prevention hotline.

“We hotlined ourselves,” Odegard said.

Beginning this week, Odegard said, she has started boarding each bus after it is empty to make sure all students are off, in addition to the required bus driver checks. Also, the school is calling home each morning to check on a student the first day the student is marked as absent.

First Student said in a written statement that it is taking the situation very seriously.

“We sincerely regret that this incident occurred, as well as the concern that it has caused the parents,” the statement said, “and we are thankful that the student was uninjured.”

Lakeview Woods, which serves 30 students between ages 5 to 21, is part of a state network of 35 schools serving about 1,000 students who have severe disabilities.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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