'I'm not going back': 12yo student misses bus, told to walk
SHOULD a Bundaberg bus driver have turned around to pick up a 12-year-old child?
The boy's family was yesterday in disbelief after he missed the school bus on Wednesday afternoon and they say he was told to run to catch up to it.
However, the company Stewart and Sons has backed its driver, who was well along his route when he found out the boy was not on board and had to get students to connecting buses.
The Year 7 Kepnock State High School student, Max Higgins, missed the bus after he went to the bathroom after class, and claims the bus arrived early.
Max was able to find someone with a mobile and phoned his mother, Leanne Ross.
Immediately, Mrs Ross phoned her other son, Jake, who was on the bus and he then informed the bus driver.
Both his mother and older sister, Jessica Higgins, were furious after they contacted the bus company, Stewart and Sons, and were advised the driver would not be going back for him.
They claim at the time the bus was at the Aldi Kepnock shopping complex and the driver said he would pull over and wait for Max to run to meet them.
Google estimates it would take 14 minutes to walk from the school to that location.
Mrs Ross was upset by this and spoke with Stewart and Sons operations manager Julie Stewart, and claims she was told "the bus driver had no obligation to return to pick him up" by Mrs Stewart.
Max's sister, Jessica, has been his guardian since their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and said she didn't understand why the bus wouldn't go back for him.
"He is only 12-years-old, anything could have happened to him if he had to make his way to Aldi," Jessica said.
"What happened to the 'no kids get left behind' policy?"
Mrs Stewart said Max and his family were known to the company and the driver was not aware Max should have been on the bus.
"Max's brother was on the bus but did not say anything about either of his siblings to the driver," she said.
"Max's brother only informed the driver after the driver was on the way to Belle Eden."
Mrs Stewart said the bus was on its way to meet three other buses, so all four buses could continue to the destinations of many other students.
"Parents need to counsel their students about being on time for their buses and Max was at no time left in a dangerous situation," she said.
Jessica said if the bus driver and company were not aware, it would have been a different story.
"The fact they were informed and didn't care made us feel as though there was no duty of care," Jessica said.
"It would have taken two minutes for the driver to go back for him.
"Don't they know what happened to Daniel Morcombe?"
Daniel Morcombe Foundation chief executive officer Holly Brennan said there was no legislation in place to make the bus return to collect students.
"At the time Daniel disappeared we hoped a policy would be adopted by bus companies everywhere to ensure safety," Ms Brennan said.
"Some choose to have the policy, it's more a principle of goodwill.
"We've had instances where bus drivers would go out of their way to make sure children arrive home safely."
Ms Brennan said about once a fortnight the foundation was contacted by parents and carers about children left behind by a bus company.
She could not make comment on whether they had received complaints about Bundaberg bus companies, adding that the message the Daniel Morcombe Foundation would like to spread was about safety.