On Monday morning, eight-year-old Harry was collected from his home in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. He was meant to be dropped off at his school, Modbury Special School.
However, he never made it. Instead, he was found locked in the school bus in the driver’s driveway.
Child left on school bus
Harry has autism and is non-verbal. The bus driver picked him and one other child up in the morning. The driver dropped another student to a different school while Harry was still buckled into his seat. The driver then drove home and locked the vehicle, leaving Harry in the back.
Thankfully, Harry was found in the driver’s driveway and is okay. It is believed he was locked into the school bus for up to an hour.
Parents demanding answers
The mistake came to light when Harry’s mum, Bec received a message on the school’s Seesaw app, asking if her son was planning on coming to class. Bec didn’t realise he wasn’t there – after all, he was collected that morning for school.
Harry’s parents are rightfully furious over what has happened and are now demanding answers. The family is especially angry at the school staff who was responsible for unbuckling him from his seatbelt each day. While the bus driver forgot to drop him off, the staff at the school would have also realised he wasn’t there.
The parents met with school representatives for an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon, calling for guarantees a similar incident would never happen again
The Department for Education said it was taking the matter ‘extremely seriously’.
“This incident should not have occurred,” chief executive Martin Westwell said. “The department will take all action necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The department is also reminding all schools of their obligations in terms of appropriate practices to ensure all students are accounted for when disembarking from buses.”
Not the first time a child has been left on a school bus
Luckily, Harry was okay. There have been far too many instances in the past few years of children being left on school buses or in the back of cars. Many of these children have tragically died.
Three-year-old Malik ‘Meeky’ Namok-Malamoo was left on a Goodstart Early Learning Bus in Edmonton, a suburb in Cairns, where temperatures skyrocketed to over 30 degrees. He was found six hours later on the school bus, deceased from heat exhaustion.
Nevaeh, a bright and vibrant three-year-old was also left on a school bus in central Queensland for up to six hours. Nevaeh survived, thank goodness.
In addition to Meeky and Nevaeah, we’ve shared several heartbreaking stories of children being accidentally forgotten in the back of cars. This is something we assume we would never do, but it’s something that happens far too often. In most cases, it’s due to something called forgotten baby syndrome.
Forgotten baby syndrome and auto-pilot parenting
Forgotten baby syndrome and auto-pilot parenting are absolutely a thing. Especially if you have a lot to juggle between family life and work. Add sleep deprivation or distraction to the mix and it’s so easy to think you’ve done something when you haven’t.
Often when a child is left in the back of a car, they are asleep or being quiet. Often the driver is distracted and going about their regular routine which may not normally include dropping the child off. Or they may think they already did the drop-off.
5000 children a year
Every year in Australia, over 5000 children are rescued after being left unattended in a car, according to Kidsafe Australia. Over the past five years, 10 children are reported to have died after being left in hot cars in Australia, with half of the deaths taking place in Queensland, Kidsafe Australia says.
It’s so easy to ask “How does this even happen”? But it does. No one should judge why or how. Instead, we should be looking at ways to prevent this from happening.
Here are some ways to keep your children safe in cars.
Look into a Backseat Reminder
Clever Elly is a good choice and is sold though Kidsafe Victoria. It uses the car’s existing door sensors to trigger a reminder that someone or something needs to be removed from the back seat.
Get in the habit of putting your purse or something valuable in the backseat
This can ensure you always do a double-take when getting out of the hot car.
Make your own backseat reminder stickers
In America, there are several check-the-backseat apps but I couldn’t find a single one on Apple! Do Better Apple. So, until we get an app, we can make a visual reminder to check the back seat. Make up your own stickers to place on the dashboard, perhaps on the front door or anywhere else you think you would see it. You can make them yourself or buy a set through Amazon.
Never let your child play with your keys
This ensures they don’t accidentally lock themselves in the car.
Always keep the car locked if you’re not using it
Kids are curious creatures and a car could prove to be the perfect hiding spot. We’ve shared a story in the past of a little boy who hid in the back seat of his mum’s car. He was found unconscious six hours later.
Finally, aim to be on time (or early even)
This reduces the panic that sets in when you arrive at your destination and are attempting to get out of the car at record pace, absentmindedly forgetting to check the precious cargo in the back. Again, you may think it will never happen to you but when the business of life gets to you or you’re sleep-deprived or your mind is elsewhere, it can. It does.
What to read next
- Child Dies in Hot Car Sparking Renewed Warning for Parents to be Vigilant
- Three-Year-Old in Critical Condition After Being Left on a Childcare Bus in QLD
- 4-Year-Old Saves Himself and Six Others After Being Left inside a Hot Car