Editorial: Parents have a right to know

Sam Schneider

Parents in the Riverhead School District receive automated messages at times to inform them about any number of topics, from an upcoming PTA meeting to an early dismissal.

A robocall, email blast or simple message on Facebook affords the school myriad options to quickly disperse information.

That ease makes it difficult to understand why the district would make no attempt to inform parents beyond those directly affected when a bus driver mistakenly left a student on a bus. And when no information is disclosed, it only fuels the rumor mill.

In this instance, the 4-year-old boy’s mother reached out to this newspaper in part because she believed other parents deserved to know what happened. If the same driver, who reportedly drove a minibus back to the district’s bus barn, parked and walked away, leaving the boy still seated inside, is driving another group of students, those parents ought to know.

The school district apparently feels otherwise.

Sam Schneider, the assistant superintendent who spoke with the boy’s family in last week’s instance, declined to answer any direct questions from the News-Review. Parents will be left to wonder what, if any, punishment the driver receives. It also begs the question: How frequently do such mistakes happen?

For a bus driver, forgetting to drop off a student is a cardinal sin. State education guidelines require bus drivers to check their vehicles when a route is completed. The forgotten boy in this case arrived home 35 minutes late. Mr. Schneider, in an email to the News-Review, acknowledged that he was left on the bus “for a very brief period of time.”

Compared to other cases nationwide where students have been left on a bus for hours, it may indeed seem like a brief period of time. But for the parent who was phoned at work by her mother and told her son had not yet arrived home, only to later find out later that he’d been inadvertently shipped to a bus barn, that can feel like an eternity.

The assertion that the boy had been left only briefly understandably didn’t sit well with the his mother.

Regardless of how long the boy sat unattended on a bus, it was the kind of mistake the school ought to make parents throughout the district aware of.

Photo: Riverhead School District assistant superintendent Sam Schneider. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter, file)