J.D. Clifton Head Start 3-year-old left on bus for hours

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

A J.D. Clifton Head Start student is out of the hospital and an investigation has been launched after the toddler was left

unattended on a Calcasieu Parish school bus for several hours Wednesday.

The bus driver and bus monitor have been suspended, Superintendent Wayne Savoy said Thursday, and the school system’s risk

management and transportation departments will investigate the matter.

Darren St. Romain, 3, got on the bus with his twin brother at about 7 a.m. Wednesday but did not get off with the other students

when they were dropped off at school. Darren’s mother, Yessenia Williams, said the bus driver, who regularly picks up her

sons for school, found Darren on the bus at about 2 p.m.

She said the driver found him “quietly sitting in his seat” and that she was immediately called to come to the school. Williams

arrived about five minutes later to pick him up. He was later taken to a hospital by his nanny.

The child was dehydrated with a lowered temperature but suffered no other health concerns, Williams said. She said his oxygen

level was also fine.

The incident was the latest in a string of problem incidents this school year involving school transportation. Last fall,

a Washington-Marion High dance team member was intentionally left at Walmart after a confrontation with the team sponsor.

In December, a Brentwood Elementary student, 6, was accidentally allowed on a day care bus instead of the school bus that

was supposed to take him home after school. This month, a substitute driver was arrested for drinking and driving; he had

just transported 49 Calcasieu schoolchildren to their schools before being pulled over.

District 2 board member Fredman Hardy said he still has confidence in the transportation department but that there are “still

some things that need to be tightened up.”

Williams said she believed the reason

his teacher did not make an inquiry about a missing student is because

Darren has sickle

cell anemia and frequently misses school for treatment. She also

said his twin brother did not notice he was missing because

they do not sit together on the bus and are in different classes.

“With the bus driver, she knows I have

twins and she’s seen the twins, so I don’t know why she didn’t notice

one of them was

missing,” Williams said. “Since the kids aren’t in the same

classroom sometimes I think it’s my fault because if I had them

in the same classroom his brother would have known.”

Director of Transportation Andy Ardoin said that after children are dropped off at Clifton Elementary, the buses are taken

to S.J. Welsh Middle School until drivers return to pick up students after school.

Williams said she was told by J.D. Clifton Head Start Director Lisa Causey and a bus coordinator that her son either fell

asleep or crawled under a seat when the children were being dropped off. Both Causey and J.D. Clifton Elementary Principal

Pamela Bell declined comment.

“There are procedures that have to be

followed, and we are investigating it,” Savoy said. “There is no reason

with these protocols

that we have in place that a child should be left on a bus.”

After the incident, Williams said

Causey had been in contact with her to make sure she and her son were

doing well. Darren

and his brother were brought to school by their grandmother

Thursday and later picked up by Williams. She said she would like

for the school to have a system to call parents if students do not

show up for class.

“I feel like they need to have a system

to check and make sure that your kids got to school ... some schools

have that,” she

said. “I was glad he was OK; I was just thinking about what was he

was doing on the bus and thinking about that I wasn’t there.”

State Board of Elementary and Secondary

Education rules say that “a trip inspection must be conducted after

each trip or individual

run to check for passengers ... that may have been left on the

bus” and that local education agencies “shall develop and provide

pre-trip and post-trip inspection report forms to all school bus

drivers and develop a system for collection and evaluation

of the data.”