Dad and mom “Terrified” After Bus Driver Deserted Their Son with Autism and He Went Lacking for an Hour
Hunter Bergemann’s parents are worried and “scared” that their son is missing for an hour and sent back to school after an incident with his bus driver.
The incident occurred after school closed on Wednesday. His mother, Brittany De Sa, says Hunter, who is nine years old and has autism, had a bad day and didn’t want to get home from school on the bus. Her seven year old son Damien did his best to convince Hunter to get on the bus, but to no avail.
Then Damien did the only thing he could do in this situation; he asked an adult for help. He made the bus driver aware of the problem, but the driver still decided to drive without Hunter.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Evgenia Parajanian
“The bus just left and my son was already walking,” says Brittany. “Then I found out later that evening that the bus was passing right by my son and my son waved to the bus and it just kept going.”
The boy spent an hour hiking about a mile and a half in freezing temperatures – minus six degrees in cold winds. In the meantime, his mother says she was “an absolute mess” when she wondered what had happened.
She called her husband, who was on his way home from work and was going to school to look for him. Then he called the police and drove up and down the streets near the school. Hunters and Damien’s teachers also drove around looking for him.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Dziurek
“I was shocked. I was walking up and down my house, waiting for my husband to call, calling him every few minutes to see if he’d heard anything,” she recalls.
Hunter was eventually found a little over half a mile from the school, scared, and froze.
“When he got home I couldn’t let go of him. He was crying, I was crying, my husband was crying, ”Brittany recalls. “We all cried. We were so relieved that he was home and safe. “
Photo: Adobe Stock / luxorphoto
Brittany says the bus driver has been driving Hunter since last year and was told the boy has autism.
Hunter’s stepfather Andriano De Sa remembers telling the driver that “all he needs is a little understanding and care”.
But bus company Hertz Northern Bus Lines says they didn’t know before that Hunter had autism.
“I don’t know whether that was recorded or not,” says Andriano. “But you know Hunter. You know our children because they are the same driver. So that he doesn’t think about it for a second, I’m on the ground.
Photo: Adobe Stock / LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS
The bus company also said there wasn’t a formal plan for the boy before, but now they have a set protocol of what to do if something like this happens again. In the future, if Hunter refuses to get on the bus, the driver will contact the school and have them send a teacher who can protect him until a parent can pick him up.
Without such a plan, the company cannot track which children are on the bus on which days and cannot be held responsible if they never get on the bus.
According to the division of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS), affiliated with Hunters School, “It is simply not feasible for a driver to keep track of which students should drive each time they drive.”
Photo: Adobe Stock / Brian Jackson
Derrick Kunz, communications advisor at GSCS reiterated that students who need additional surveillance can get it through a formal plan like the one now in place for Hunter. He also says it is a shared responsibility to keep an eye on the whereabouts of the students and not just the bus drivers. In addition, two teachers are said to be stationed near the school doors to ensure the safety of the children when boarding the buses. These teachers are supposed to look after the students at the level of “sensible, prudent parents”.
“I’m not even sure if you can keep an eye on all the children who are passing by the bus,” says Andriano. “Obviously, they don’t chase the kids who get on or don’t get on the bus.”
Photo: Adobe Stock / Olesya Shelomova
Andriano and Brittany believe that they should be able to rely on their children’s teachers and bus drivers to make better decisions, whether or not there is an individual care plan in place to ensure their safety.
Andriano calls it “rather worrying” that the protocol introduced for Hunter is not being used for all students who do not get on the bus as intended.
“Any child can have a bad day,” he says. “It could end up worse for any child, not just mine.”
Thankfully, Hunter’s story didn’t end badly. Hopefully, this near-miss can help school principals help create logs to protect other children from a worse outcome.