The recent case of 17-year-old Sophie Kerr, a girl with special needs left on a school bus for hours, is just the latest incident in a disturbing trend.

Sophie was left on her bus for over three hours after the driver and aide both failed to notice that the girl, who is non-verbal, was still on the bus when they reached the school.

The bus driver returned the bus to the depot where Sophie was unwittingly abandoned without heating or hydration for hours.

The lack of care here is shocking, not only from the employees involved but also from the people in charge. 

No Apology!

The Education Authority responsible did not apologise to Sophie or her family for a month. They only offered an apology after they were contacted by the press this week. 

Not only that, but the Education Authority even lied to the press when they said they "took immediate action and contacted the pupil's parents to offer an unreserved apology", as the Belfast Telegraph reported.

In fact, as you can see in the image below, the authority only contacted the family for the first time via email on November 19th, the day after the story was originally reported in the print edition Fermanagh Herald, the family's local newspaper.​

We really don't want to attack individuals - it would be irresponsible and unreasonable without knowing all the details. 

But this issue is serious, and it's not the first time it has happened.

There have been two recent cases in Florida and another in Texas where children with special needs have been left on buses, all in the past few months. 

Thankfully, no harm came to these kids.

Not every family is so lucky.

Earlier this year, a California family was devastated when their son was left behind on a school bus and later died in hospital.  

Another incident, again in California, saw a young man with special needs die after being left on a bus for hours in the middle of a heatwave.

How can this be allowed to happen?

Surely a more robust procedure should be in place to monitor children, especially those with special needs.

A human life has to be the most precious cargo there is.

It is ridiculous to think that a postal delivery could be treated with more respect than a vulnerable person.

But if this was a driver delivering Amazon parcels there's no way his cargo would be left unchecked and lying around in his truck.

There are even specific alarm systems available for exactly this scenario on our buses.

Some buses already feature systems that require the driver to walk to the back of the bus to deactivate an alarm at the end of a journey.

This means they need to make their way through the entire vehicle and will hopefully notice any child left behind.

Not every school bus will be able to include this - policies and budgets that vary from school to school, state to state, and from country to country.

But every bus has a driver, and often an assistant, who need to be properly trained and guided by the processes of the authority responsible.

Every organisation that supplies these services must review their processes to make sure they are protecting the vulnerable children we place in their care.

It's the very least we can expect.

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