Well, probably not an epidemic. But last week's incident in Renton, in which a school-bus driver dropped off two 5-year-olds at the end of the driver's route, leaving them to flag down cars as they walked alongside the freeway, got us wondering: How often does this type of thing happen?
Here's what we found.
Earlier this month in Atlanta, three Ralph Bunche Middle School students on their way home from an after-school activity were ordered off a school bus by their driver after she apparently became lost and got sick of driving around.
"She made me, this other girl, and this other handicapped boy walk home by ourselves," 12-year-old Anaya Akbar told WSB-TV News in Atlanta. "She said, get off my bus, I have other things to do. I'm trying to get home."
The preteens were found walking separately down darkened roads after 8 p.m. by Akbar's parents, who'd gone out in search of their daughter. The driver was not fired.
In Sunbury, Pennsylvania in September 2010, a 7-year-old girl was dropped off at the wrong bus stop even after telling the driver it wasn't her stop. Crying and scared, Emily Webb was helped by the father of a schoolmate until her mother, who was waiting at her actual bus stop, could be located.
According to The Daily Item, the second-grader's father said that the unnamed bus driver "brushed off his daughter's statement that the location was not the spot where her mother showed her she would be getting off the bus and directed her off the bus anyway."
By the time she was found, the police had already responded to her mother's call for help and were searching for the girl.
At least initially, the bus driver was not fired.
After waiting a half hour [at the bus stop], Crystal Humme became concerned and began looking for her daughter's school bus and eventually learned the girl was dropped off on Third Street.
"It's the fact that she was by herself for over an hour, that anything could have happened to her," said Humme through tears.
The bus driver was not fired.
In Wyoming, Michigan, in September 2009, a 5-year-old girl who'd gotten on the wrong school bus was let off the bus over a mile from the school, and nowhere near her home. Actually, it happened on three separate occasions to the same child. From WZZM-TV:
"The first time she got off at the wrong bus stop, one of her classmate's dad called the school and they contacted me and I picked her up from him. The second time, she was at a different bus stop and she was out in the cold for about an hour and 15 minutes. I had to call 911," [Angela] McCormick said. "She could have frozen to death. It was 18 degrees that day."
With the start of the new school year, McCormick hoped the problems were behind her, but then it happened again. When the bus arrived, Jesalyn and a 5-year-old classmate were missing.
"The bus pulled up. We were waiting and they never got off the bus," said McCormick. "We got on the bus, we looked and called their names and both of them were already off. We jumped off the bus and were headed up to the school when we saw them walking up Burton, said McCormick. "They could have been hit by a car. They were both crying; it made us want to cry, you know."
Reportedly, none of the bus drivers were fired as a result of the incidents.
In Staten Island in April 2009, an 11-year-old girl with special needs was dropped off at her previous home after her family had moved three miles away, despite urgently insisting to the bus driver that her family had moved.
Though family members had informed the school of their new address, this was a different bus company that Zhane [Martin] rides with only once a week following an after-school program. Zhane tried to tell the bus driver that she had moved but they ignored her, said her grandmother, Brenda Martin.
"She was hysterically crying and she kept telling him, 'Please, please, I don't live here anymore,'" she said. "And the response from the matron and the bus driver was, 'Oh well,' and they just left her there."
It is not clear whether the bus driver was fired.
And for good measure, here's Craig Carter, a charter bus driver paid $5,400 last month to drive a group of Waynseboro, Georgia, high-school seniors to Disney World, but who never showed up, abandoning them at the appointed meeting place. According to WJBF in Augusta, Georgia, Carter turned himself in to the authorities after being charged with theft by deception.
Honestly, there are a lot more of these stories, as well as a bunch of cases of kids, usually asleep, being left on school buses, often strapped into their seats for hours at a time. The happy news is that we didn't come across any instances where the kids were harmed beyond wetting themselves and/or getting scared (though this isn't to say that there has never been a terrible outcome as a result of such an incident--we just didn't come across one).
If you feel unnerved, just follow these simple Seattle Weekly Safety Tips:
1. Don't have kids.
2. If you do have kids, never allow them to ride on a school bus.
3. As a general rule, be very fearful of everything.