ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey father is thankful his 5-year-old daughter is safe after an alarming trip home from school last month.
“All of a sudden, I heard my daughter’s voice saying, ‘Daddy, I’m home,’” Zachary Falls told CBS2’s Erin Logan.
That’s what every father wants to hear, but not in this situation.
“I said, ‘Catalina, how did you get home, honey?’ She said, ‘I took the bus,’” he said.
Falls was confused and upset, because his daughter, Catalina, doesn’t even take the school bus.
“’Did the bus driver talk to you?’” he asked her. “’No, I just got off and walked away.’”
He was impressed she recognized where to get off, but said the principal at Dennis O’Brien Elementary School has made it clear to parents that an adult must be waiting at the bus stop before a kindergartner can get off.
Catalina showed Logan how far she walked alone.
“Another registered sex offender moved into Rockaway over the summer. We got a notice. So God forbid something had happened to her,” Falls said.
He said the principal told him there was a miscommunication over whether his daughter was supposed to attend aftercare at the school.
“The teacher basically, after the first month of school, decided to just re-print a list of all kids and where they’re supposed to go after school,” Falls said.
He said that’s what led to the problem.
The principal sent him an email, saying, “On 9/8, the teacher received a hand written note stating YMCA every day, which she sent to the office. But it did not get sent to transportation.”
The Rockaway Transportation Department, the school and the aftercare provider are all involved in the daily busing.
Even though Falls got a detailed explanation of what went wrong, he feels this is a wake-up call for all area schools. His goal is to make sure administrators do a check and re-check to see if their bus policy is in fact being enforced.
“The bus driver should just have to ask, ‘What grade are you in?’ Kindergarten. That would’ve changed the whole outcome,” he said.
Falls also said he wants changes made so that students must be in at least third grade before they can get off the bus without an adult present.