Throughout my time covering
the bus industry, this
may be the most troubling
thing I’ve come across:
“[The bus matron] told police
she knew Rivera hadn’t been
dropped off and was asleep on the
bus when she got off, the [criminal]
complaint said. But she didn’t
tell the driver because she was
headed for an appointment and didn’t want
to go back to Rivera’s East Harlem home.”
This is from a Jan. 2 Associated Press article
about a severely disabled 22-year-old
who was left to spend a freezing night —
New Year’s Eve, no less — on a bus in a
Brooklyn, N.Y., lot.
While the bus in this case wasn’t a school
bus — Ed Rivera had reportedly been
picked up from a special-needs day program
— the incident is certainly relevant to
As we at SBF search the Internet for news
each day, we often find stories of children
being left on school buses. These mishaps
are always inexcusable, but the Brooklyn
bus incident is particularly egregious.
First of all, the bus matron (or aide, as
they’re known in other areas) knew that Rivera
was still on the bus, according to police.
It was not an accident!
Some news reports noted that the appointment
that the matron felt such pressure to
get to was a New Year’s Eve program at her
church. Which begs the questions: Was she
able to focus on the program, or was she
caught up in wondering whether someone
else had noticed that Rivera was still on that
bus? Did it occur to her that Rivera might be
“ringing in the New Year” by curling
up in his seat, trying to stay
warm as temperatures dipped below
Although Rivera’s family reported
him missing that night,
he wasn’t found until the next
morning. Police and family members
searched the bus compound
that night, but they didn’t discover
the back lot on the property, which was
where Rivera’s bus was parked, until they
returned in the morning.
Rivera was taken to a hospital and treated
The bus matron was subsequently fired
and charged with reckless endangerment.
Rivera’s heartrending tale was picked up
by news outlets across the country, which is
Children being left on school buses also
tend to be big stories. This is unfortunate,
because we have hundreds of thousands
of school bus drivers and aides across the
country who are devoted to the safety and
well-being of their passengers, and, for the
most part, their good work goes largely
We’ve written many articles discussing
how to prevent child-left-behind incidents.
Staff training, constant reminders, “Bus
Empty” signs and electronic child-check
systems are some of the key measures that
school bus operations take.
But at the end of the day, it comes down to
a personal decision by the bus driver or aide:
Will I take the extra time to check the bus and
make sure every passenger gets home, or do
I have more important things to do?