PARMA, Ohio — The Parma City School District is reviewing its procedures after an incident in which a 6-year-old boy was placed on the wrong school bus after school on Thursday afternoon.
Although the first grader was never in any danger nor was he unsupervised, the boy’s mother said his whereabouts were unknown for half an hour.
Michelle Pringle’s youngest son, 6-year-old Dominic, is a first-grader at Dentzler Elementary off Dentzler Road in Parma. After classes were dismissed on Thursday — the second day of the new school year — Pringle said her son wasn’t on the return bus ride home. Concerned, as any mother would be, Pringle said she called the school district’s transportation department, which later informed her that Pringle’s son was never put on the afternoon bus.
“It was frustrating, scary, overwhelming, gut-wrenching. Any parent knows you want to crawl out of your skin when you can’t find your child,” Pringle said. “I dropped my son off at school. I expect him to walk in that door and when I come to pick him up and he’s not there, it’s on them. It has nothing to do with human error. You don’t get a chance with human error.”
Pringle said she then alerted Parma police and raced over to Dentzler, where the school staff then proceeded through the normal checklist of the locations where Dominic could possibly be. For approximately 35 minutes, Dominic’s location was unknown.
“He was put on the wrong bus. He was taken to this after-care program. Nobody had attendance. Nobody could tell me why my son was there or why he was put there. Nobody checked to make sure that he belonged there,” Pringle said.
Dominic had apparently been put on Bus 139, which was near Bus 135, his intended bus. The bus mix-up led to Dominic traveling to Green Valley Elementary School, which hosts an after-school program for district students. He was frightened but otherwise unharmed.
“We were told, ‘Oh he was found safe, that’s all that matters.’ To me that’s not all that matters,” Pringle said. “I’m grateful that he was found safe but that’s not all that matters. The system needs to be fixed.”
In a statement, a Parma City School District spokesperson said the district regrets that the child was placed on the wrong bus and it is in the process of reviewing its procedures.
"Of the district’s more than 9,000 students, roughly 3,500 use the district’s bus services," the statement read. "Those 3,500 students are transported to and from school every day over the course of the entire school year. Those trips overwhelmingly end without issue."
"We regret that our student was placed on the wrong bus on the second day of school. However, the student was always safe as he was supervised by a professional bus driver throughout his ride,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We will review our procedures to ensure that all of our 3,500 bus riders enter the correct bus at our 15 dismissals.”
Pringle said she has a meeting scheduled for Monday with the superintendent of the Parma city school district, Dr. Charles Smialek. Pringle said she has been pleased with the response from his office, which has led her to believe the district is taking the issue seriously.