I Aim to Misbehave

“Shiny.  Let’s be bad guys.”

–Jayne, Serenity

 Yes, two Firefly quotes to lead things off.  (Gotta love Mal and Jayne, even if the quotes are from two different scenes…)  I think that summarizes how I’ve felt for the last, oh, about twenty-four hours.There’s the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  I think that’s also very apropos today.

Yesterday afternoon, I returned home from work to find my wife standing outside by the front door.  It seemed that the Monster had not yet arrived home from school – something happened and he ‘missed’ his bus, so they had put him on another bus….

Actually, the story’s even more convoluted, as I got it from my wife.  He’s due for drop-off daily at 4:25 PM – school lets out at 3:50 PM.  At 4:15, she received a call from the school’s transportation coordinator informing her that he’d missed his bus and that they were putting him on another bus if one could be found (or she’d bring him back to us herself if no bus could be found).  Then, she sat by the phone and waited… and waited.. and waited.  Finally, at 4:55, she called the bus company themselves, who informed her that he was on a bus and would be home ‘shortly’.

‘Shortly’ was 5:58, after the bus driver called to say she wasn’t sure where our house was, and I simply decided it was easier to have her meet me at a parking lot in the area so I could retrieve my child, with his wet shorts and sodden diaper.

Quite apparently, this is not an acceptable state of affairs.  I wrote an email immediately to his teacher and to the school, demanding an explanation:

Good evening, [teacher]

I’m going to cut straight to the chase – [The Monster] was left at school this afternoon by his bus.

I would like to know how this happened.

My son, as you are aware, is autistic and minimally communicative.  He does not reply with his name when asked, he does not know his phone number or his address.  He certainly cannot get himself to his bus on his own.

My wife was called by the transportation coordinator for the school around 4:15 this afternoon to inform her that he had not been put on his bus, and that a second bus from the company would be returning to retrieve him.  My wife then heard nothing until she called [bus company] at 4:55 PM, whereupon she was informed that the bus had picked him at 4:40 PM from [school], and that it would take 30-45 minutes after they completed their usual route to drop him off.

The bus driver then called us at 5:52 PM with no idea where our house was, and requesting directions, based on the sticker in our son’s shirt or on his bag (since they called her cellphone).  I picked him up from the bus at 5:58, around the corner from here.

Obviously, this is unacceptable.  As such, I would like to know, as I stated, what happened so that this is not repeated.

I will be, for the record, sending a similar letter to the school through its contact page, as I do not have any contact information for the principal.  I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt, honest response.

(My email to the school went further on details about our son, since I do not have the same assumptions on what they do or don’t know about my child and his IEP.  I also included the fact that I think it inappropriate (but generous of her and much appreciated) for the transportation coordinator to have offered to bring him back to us herself.  And yes, as I’ve been told by the wife and others – I do tend to beat people to death with verbiage.)

So.  90 minutes later, I got a response from the teacher that she needed time to investigate, that she’d been at the school until 7 and that the assistant had taken the Monster to his bus, so she’d email me ‘tomorrow’.

As the hours ticked by this morning, I started drafting an even more verbose version of the letter above for the CEO of the city schools and our city councilperson, on the assumption that I was not going to get a ‘prompt, honest response’, intending to send it at 11 AM if I did not hear back.  The teacher responded at 10:59 with a response that she’d shared the information with the principal and administrative staff, and that the ‘education coordinator’ would contact me shortly.

When the phone rang ten minutes later, it wasn’t the education coordinator (who I assume the teacher meant as the IEP coordinator for their school), but the principal herself.

The principal and I had a lovely conversation about the situation – it seems that the bus actually left prematurely from school.  This wasn’t an isolated incident, as it seems that several of the busses did exactly that yesterday (which leads me to wonder why someone’s not preventing them from doing so, but I digress) and the city schools are investigating why this happened.  My son was, she assured me, supervised the entire time and was never out of someone’s sight.  She had not been aware that his IEP required him to be in a car seat on the bus, apologized for putting him on a bus without one, and assured me that next time this happens, they’d call me at the office to come retrieve him.  And she said the three things that I needed to hear:

  • I’m sorry for what happened
  • We have determined concrete steps to avoid this happening again
  • I take responsibility for the parts of this that are the fault of my school’s staff

And, for what its worth, I genuinely feel like the principal felt atrocious and horrified about what happened, least of all because of his two-hour bus ride and his coming home soaking wet.  She extended an offer to hold a meeting between us, herself and her administrative staff, and the teachers in his class, if there’s anything that we think might be helpful for them to know, and I expressed that I look forward to meeting her in person at back to school night in three weeks.

I’m still not thrilled, but I am placated.  As I said on Facebook, however… my rage is assuaged for the moment.  It sleeps, but it is a very lightly sleeping rage.  (Do not awaken my rage.)

We’ll see what happens with the rest of our (far less major) issues as to the current IEP’s implementation.

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