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Funkstown kindergartner dropped at wrong stop

October 10, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

A kindergartner at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education who got on the wrong bus Monday afternoon was dropped off two miles from his home.

Five-year-old Dustin Hammond was found in the Food Lion parking lot along Sharpsburg Pike south of Hagerstown, and Kendra Peacher says her son is lucky to be alive.

Schools spokesman Will Kauffman said the boy boarded the wrong bus after a miscommunication between staff members at the school.

Dustin rode the wrong bus until the second-to-last stop, which was in the Saint James housing development along Sharpsburg Pike. Kauffman said the bus driver believed Dustin was on the right bus.

After asking Dustin where he lived, the driver told the boy that he would have to walk home, Peacher said. The boy started walking the two miles to his home in the Cross Creek development along Sharpsburg Pike, she said.

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"He was told to walk," Peacher said. "The driver told him to watch out for cars."

Peacher saw the bus driver's discussion with her son by watching a recording taken by a video camera on the bus.

Dustin made it less than a quarter-mile to the Food Lion shopping center after getting of the bus. Peacher said her son was found wandering in the store parking lot by an acquaintance of the family.

Peacher said she believes, that without that woman's help, her son could have been hurt or killed. If Dustin had continued walking home, he would have had to cross Sharpsburg Pike to enter his own housing development.

"Our main charge every day is to transport and educate children in a safe and secure environment, and we take responsibility when situations like this occur," Kauffman said. "We're constantly reviewing procedures and practices with an aim to improve services to students and ensure their safety."

He said the bus driver believed Dustin would only have to walk a short distance.

"The driver thought it was the best location of her stops," he said.

Peacher was told the bus driver thought the boy would be walking about a quarter-mile home from where he was dropped off.

"A kindergartner shouldn't walk a quarter of a mile," she said. "That's the difference between life and death."

The driver was still employed with Washington County Public Schools, Kauffman said. The situation is being reviewed by school system officials.

Peacher said she believes her son should have been taken back to the school or to his actual bus stop. He should not have been told to walk home, she said.

"I thank God he is OK," she said. "I think it's a miracle."

Peacher said her son has been back to school since Monday, and he has ridden the bus home.

"But he's now equipped with a cell phone," she said. "He's 5 and he has a cell phone. It's sad it's at that level, that I don't feel comfortable with the school system so I have to give my child a cell phone."


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