Morris School District bussing change runs afoul of parents

August 21, 2013 (MORRIS, Ill.)

On Tuesday, many children in Morris did not get home on time after one school bus driver, likely confused and overwhelmed, simply decided to dump them off.

Faith Lightfoot's preschooler plays in the park that became a transit depot on Tuesday for her second and third graders.

"He let 30 kids out here that don't even live around here. My kids live three blocks away, and he just left them to fend for themselves," said Lightfoot.

Facebook lit up with similar complaints, causing parents to come to schools Wednesday demanding answers. On another bus, Ben Alvarez says his 5- and 6-year-old boys were manhandled for no reason by the driver.

"Last night, after everything was said and done, and we had them all calmed down, and they were in the house, the 5-year-old hid in the corner for well over and hour crying," said Alvarez.

Officials of Morris school districts 101 and 54 said they saved half a million dollars by sharing bussing with the town's other school, Saratoga Elementary, which has always run its own transportation.

"We anticipated some transition issues and some problems moving forward," said Supt. Pat Halloran, Morris Community High School District 101.

But they confirm on the operation's first day, the driver of Bus 12 took several children from district 54's White Oak Elementary and left them in a park.

ABC7's Ravi Baichwal asks, "Is there a chance that this bus driver could be fired?"

"I hate to speak for the school board, but taking into consideration the monumental mistake that was made, I would say that's a definite possibility," said Supt. Kathy Perry, Saratoga Community Consolidated District 60C.

Parents panicked throughout the farming community, causing a multiple-level police response.

"Getting your child to and from school is very important, and it's nerve-wracking," said Chief Brent Dite, Morris Police Department.

"They tried to make cuts and tried to cut costs in areas where you cannot make these cuts. You cannot jumble all these drivers that don't know this area. They should have been planning their routes and making better choices," said Samantha Lindemuth, parent.

The driver of the bus that dumped all the children off at the park has not yet been fired but is on administrative leave. The question of that person's continued employment will be addressed at the next school board meeting.

As for the other driver allegedly involved in the manhandling incident, school officials found that there was no adult corroborating witness, and therefore, that individual is still actively employed and driving for the district.

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