A Georgia school is apologizing after an angry parent claims his 5-year-old daughter was left behind at school while the school bus took other students home. What’s worse, the frightening incident has happened not once, but three times already this year.
A viral video posted to Facebook last month shows Tristan King berating and cursing staff at R.L. Norton Elementary School in Snellville, Ga. after the school bus pulled off without his kindergartner on it. The video has been shared nearly 31,000 times, and on Friday, school officials apologized, admitting the incident “wasn’t handled well.”
“Mr. King had every right to be upset, and the whole thing was not handled well,” Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a statement. “School officials have reviewed things on their end and some new policies and procedures have been put in place.”
According to the newspaper, school officials also apologized to the entire Norton Elementary School community for the incident and sent a letter home to parents explaining what had happened.
In the video, King is heard nailing staff members to the wall on Feb. 28 for losing his daughter for the third time this year. He slammed officials for their negligence and demanded to speak with the principal.
“You all allow these buses to come pick these kids up, therefore you’re responsible,” the outraged father explains after a staffer tries shifting blame to the school’s transportation authority. “When I release my child to get on your bus to come to your school — until my child makes it home to my door, you’re responsible for my child.”
A school resource officer (SRO) asks King to lower his voice so out of consideration for the other children present, a request that sent the already frustrated father over the top.
“No! I don’t care!” King shouts. “Y’all didn’t care nothing about my child when she went missing for three times. This is the third time, and you wanna talk to me about someone else’s kids, and you didn’t care about mine?
“No. Don’t ask me to be calm,” he adds. “Don’t patronize me. Don’t chastise me.”
In his Facebook post, King alleged that officials had barred him from coming to the campus again on his own without a police escort. However, a school spokeswoman denied this, saying: “The resource officer told Mr. King that if he didn’t calm down and refrain from using profanity, that’s something that could happen. The principal has no desire to pursue that action.”
The tongue-lashing was sparked after King received a frantic phone call from him his son, who’s in the fourth grade, alerting him that the little girl wasn’t on the school bus, the AJC reported. King said his son was “crying and screaming” that teachers wouldn’t let him off the bus to go look for his sister.
A similar incident had happened earlier in the school year and again after winter break.
“We didn’t make a big deal about it the first time,” he told the newspaper. “School had just started and everyone was getting used to the routine.”
King and his wife weren’t as forgiving the second time around after they received a call in January that their daughter had been left yet again. Both parents said they work about an hour away in Buford, Ga., and, with traffic, wouldn’t make it back in time to retrieve their little girl by 4 p.m. School officials had called them just after 3:15 p.m.
“We were told there was a teacher party and nobody would be there,” King recalled, adding that a family member stepped in to ensure their daughter was picked up before the deadline.
To address the issue, King and his wife worked with officials to ensure both of their kids made it on to the bus every day. Their son was to go to their daughter’s class and escort her to the bus. The parents even took the extra step of purchasing their son a cellphone just in case anything went wrong.
The plan was followed for a couple weeks, but eventually things went back to normal, King said. Even after a letter from the principal, he said the problem remains unresolved.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone,” he said. “I’m worried that this is an epidemic that has been swept under the rug.”
Officials said the school has since arranged for an adult to escort King’s daughter and her older brother to the bus daily from this point forward.
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