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Child left on school bus for 7 hours

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — A Grayson County school bus driver has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an investigation after a 3-year-old girl was left on his bus for nearly seven hours last Wednesday.

According to Jerry and Gloria Black, their granddaughter spent more than seven hours trapped inside a school bus — luckily on an overcast day.

The girl — whose name the family asked not be used — will turn four in September and was on her way to pre-kindergarten class at Baywood Elementary.

She got on her original bus from her home in Independence and was taken to Grayson County High School, where she caught another bus to Baywood, driven by Delmar Cornett.

Sometime during the trip from Independence to Baywood, the girl apparently fell asleep and didn't get off when the others did at the school.

After dropping off the children, Cornett proceeded home. According to the Blacks, Cornett said he checked the bus twice before parking it for the day.

The girl told her family that she eventually woke up and saw Cornett and his wife leaving in their car.

She tried to get off the bus, but was unable to open the door. She remained there all day.

Cornett returned to the bus around 2:45 p.m. to pick the children up and found the girl.

According to her grandparents, she had not eaten breakfast prior to leaving for school and went the entire day without food, drink or being able to use the restroom.

Grayson Schools' Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas said that “we had a very unfortunate incident on Wednesday in which a pre-school child was left unattended on one of our buses. This incident is currently under full investigation and appropriate action will be taken by the school division.”

“If it had been real hot or something she could have died on the school bus,” said Jerry Black.

Gloria thanked God that the day was overcast and the temperatures were lower than average. “Had it been any hotter outside... I fear that she might have suffocated.

“I fear that she might have gotten so scared that she may have gone into shock... A lot of things could have happened that didn't, but we don't want this to happen again to her or any other child.”

According to the grandparents, Cornett told them the girl may have been sleeping under a seat when he checked the bus.

“We tried to ask her,” said Gloria Black. “But she is three and hard to get things clear.”

The girl's grandmother feels that Cornett would have seen the little girl with her long blonde hair sticking out from under the seat — if in fact she was down there.

“My point is that my granddaughter could have died on that bus that day if it had been hotter. We want people to know that these things could happen,” Gloria Black said. “Let's go to our schools and make sure our bus drivers have rules and regulations that they have to follow. This could have been a tragedy... thank God it wasn't,” said Gloria.

Despite the incident, the girl got back on the bus again Friday morning.

The investigation is being conducted by Grayson Schools' Personnel Director Chad Newman.

Thomas noted that school personnel had an opportunity to observe the child on the next day and reported that she “appeared to be happy and healthy.”

Thomas apologized on behalf of the school division. “The school division administration staff has extended deepest apologies to the family of this pre-school child.”

She added that the safety of students is the school division's top priority and every effort will be made to ensure the protection of the children.

“School personnel are directed to adhere to our division requirements and procedures. It is a required procedure for all bus drivers to conduct a comprehensive inspection of their buses prior to parking the bus at the conclusion of each route,” said Thomas. “The school division will continue to evaluate and enforce compliance with these procedures in order to provide the safest environment possible for our students.”