It’s not always the case that all’s well that ends well.
Wonderfully, a 6-year-old child who attends R.B. Dean Elementary School and was abandoned by school officials in Myrtle Beach last week while on a field trip is alive and fine — although, we are told, somewhat shaken by the incident. The happy ending is because an alert parent who was tagging along for the trip scooped the child up after the bus had left — and wiped away a lot of the negligence demonstrated by those who had custody of the child.
We don’t want to even consider the potential scenarios had that not happened, but a vivid imagination isn’t needed to understand they are beyond frightening
The child’s parents were of course outraged, and we doubt that the answers they got from school officials provided much comfort. A parent has to have an expectation when he drops a 6-year-old off at school that educators will return that child safely at the end of the day. That almost didn’t happen.
The mistake was elementary. School officials took a head count as the bus was loaded for the trip to Myrtle Beach, but there was no such head count when the bus was reloaded for the return trip. If a counting error has to be made, it would have been much better to leave the child stranded in Maxton than Myrtle Beach. That goes without saying, but perhaps a little bit of rubbing it in is needed here to underline the point.
The mistakes didn’t end there. The parent who hustled the child into a personal vehicle called school officials to say that she was safe. Presumably, it was only then that the school officials realized a child had been left behind. But instead of stopping the bus, and placing the child on it, the bus kept rolling to R.B. Dean with the personal vehicle closely behind. That exposed the school system to liability issues.
We are certain that those who made the mistake got more than a tongue-lashing. Disciplinary action has been promised after the central office receives a full report on what happened. If a job were lost over this incident, we would not call the punishment too extreme. Nor are we calling for that to happen.
The school board on Tuesday night listed as an agenda item policy on field trips, but there was no open discussion on the matter. There really doesn’t need to be. All that needs to happen is that the system’s existing policy, which includes counting the children as they load the bus, be followed.
We understand that mistakes happen. But mistakes like this one should never happen.