Good News! Lost 5-Year-Old Helped by Strangers

Every parents’ fear — that their child will get lost, far from home, and come to harm — was turned on its head yesterday. I have a feeling it’s turned on tis head every day, actually, but how nice to read this story about strangers. It shouldn’t even be news: most humans care about children and want to help. But as long as we’re talking about kids, school buses and getting lost, it’s nice that a story like this gets some publicity. — Lenore

30 Responses

  1. Glad he made it home safe, but that comment about overhauling the dismissal system now has me worried that school will be clutching the hands of students until their parents present a photo ID, and releasing the little hands only when they are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the child is following the correct parent, entering the correct car, and not throwing a tantrum/potentially crying for help because they’re actually being kidnapped.

  2. Something very similar happened to my son on his first day of 1st Grade. He was supposed to go to an after-school program, but instead was placed on a bus. Since I had a variance for him to attend that school, the bus they put him on was the one that came “closest” to our actual home, over 30 miles away. Thankfully, when the bus driver tried to get my son to leave the bus, he refused. I had taught him my phone number and instead of leaving the bus he insisted that they call me. I was able to meet the bus at the next stop and pick him up.

    That’s right. My son at the tender age of 6 refused to follow instructions that didn’t make any sense and proposed an alternate plan. That’s proof that Free-Range makes damn good SENSE when kids are properly taught they things that they need to know to take care of themselves!

    Of course, the fact that he knows to refuse instructions that don’t make sense also lead to our need to home school, but that’s a different story. 🙂

  3. For an example of how a singular incident can cause a school board to overreact, read this.

    In 2004, an elementary school student in Orlando, FL was struck by lightning, so the school instituted a policy where when lightning was nearby students could not be released. Even when parents tried to pick up their kids, the school would not release them. The kids were stuck at school until 8pm.

  4. Great article – we need to remember that if our kids get lost or find themselves in other difficulty, it is very likely to be a stranger who will help them.

    I teach my daughter (age 8) to pay attention to strange BEHAVIOUR – whether in a person she knows or somebody she does not know – and we talk about what to do and who to tell if somebody, adult or child, is acting in a way that makes her nervous, uneasy, or afraid.

    I also help her when we are out and about to identify strangers who could help her if she needed assistance (shopkeepers, women with children, etc).

    Although she is still a bit young and immature in my estimation to ride the buses in town unattended, (never mind that I would probably be arrested or investigated!), I am starting to give her the responsibility of planning our route and reminding me when it is time to get off of the bus – in anticipation of the day she gets to ride on her own or with friends.

    Finally, our family considers it important to get to know the people who live and work in our community and to identify the people whom we as a family consider trustworthy- so there are many adults in her world who could lend a hand if she found herself in trouble.

  5. Please note: at the link to the original story, there’s a poll on how your kids get to school! Right now, “walk” has only 7% votes.

    Joette, that’s a great story.

  6. I suppose I could vote “walk”, since he walks from his bedroom to the living room. 🙂

  7. @Dad: I’m in CFL too and I remember that. It was yet another crazy zero tolerance policy: zero tolerance for lightning. Thank goodness that happened when it did, because the NWS has changed their 30/30 rule to “When thunder roars, stay indoors”. Basically, if you can hear thunder you could be struck by lightning. Those poor kids might have been locked up in the school until midnight!

  8. @joette — I almost said the same thing–my kids walk from their bedrooms to the kitchen for breakfast, and then to their favorite roosts for school.

  9. @Tracey R: There’s a thought…has anyone done a survey to see how many FR parents are also home school parents? I’d be curious to know if there’s a statistically significant difference!

  10. Hasn’t everyone had an experience like this?

    When I was little I took a differing bus in the afternoon then in the morning, but it was a half day so I was suppose to return to the home day-care, not home. I took the wrong bus, probably placed there. But I knowingly knew not to get off at home, because I knew no one was there. I was six at the time. I stayed on the bus and the bus driver returned me to school, the principal ended up driving me to the home day-care.

    Mistakes will happen, usually the bus driver or the child figure it out before s/he is off the bus though. Thanks goodness for strangers.

  11. My daughters had a half-day last month on a day when I work part-time. They wanted to walk home instead of going to their after school program. I wasn’t going to get home until about half an hour after they did, but they still wanted to do it.

    Last year when they walked, all of the walkers went to the car pool line. My older daughter (2nd grade at the time) would pick up my younger daughter (kindergarten) and they would go home together. I always tell my younger daughter not to leave without my older daughter.

    So on the half day last month, I get a very excited phone call from my older daughter when she got home from school. They had changed things up this year and have the walkers go to a different door of the building than the car poolers. Most walkers have their mom’s come get them, they don’t walk by themselves like my daughters. At any rate, my older daughter didn’t see my younger daughter with the walkers, so she walked around the outside of the school to the car pool line to see if my younger daughter was there. She wasn’t there so my older daughter went to the after-school program to see if my younger daughter went there by mistake. She asked the director and she wasn’t there.

    My older daughter said she was getting nervous about what to do at this point but she decided to go check the car pool line again. While there she saw my younger daughter’s teacher and asked her is she knew where she was. The teacher and my daughter walked down to the walkers line and my younger daughter was there. She had just gotten there after my older daughter went to look for her.

    When my daughter told me this story, she was so excited about it and proud of how she handled everything. This was a big adventure to her. I was proud of her too and was actually glad for the confusion because it taught her that sometimes things don’t go according to plan and sometimes you get nervous, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with some ideas to resolve the situation.

    I also realized that if my kids didn’t walk home by themselves, she never would have had the opportunity to work this situation out by herself. I would have been dragging her around by the hand.

  12. Another free-range homeschool parent here. My kids helped build a fire this morning and then sat down to read/study in front of it. They walked to get carry the wood in.

  13. This story will just be more bad news in the end: the obvious response will be, as many of the commenters on the story suggested, to not let children get off the bus unless there’s a guardian at the stop waiting for them.

  14. This isn’t good news. Kids get lost all the time and strangers help them find their parents. That’s not news.

    This story is all about how the school is going to improve things. Apparently kids getting off at the wrong bus is now so dangerous that schools must prevent it at all costs. Individual chaperones must come before decent textbooks at school…

    You know what worries me most? What happens when these kids come of age and get jobs or go to college? My boss in the real world is great, but he doesn’t accept “my chaperone was ill” as an excuse for missing an important client meeting.

  15. “You know what worries me most? What happens when these kids come of age and get jobs or go to college? My boss in the real world is great, but he doesn’t accept “my chaperone was ill” as an excuse for missing an important client meeting.”

    As a college instructor, I can tell you – many of them are incapable of thinking for themselves or being resourceful (i.e. looking to see if the answer is on the website or syllabus before emailing instructor). Many students assume that someone will fix whatever problem they have – missed assignments, computer problems, etc – and there will be no consequences (i.e. lost points).

    There were two online quizzes about 2 weeks into the semester which were available for 2+ weeks and there were multiple reminders through multiple venues. YESTERDAY (a month after they were due), a student came to me to see if there was anything they could do to make up the assignment.

  16. Re: The lightning story.

    I remember when I was 19, I was a camp counselor for a group of 19 toddlers. I was one of four counselors. I took one kid to the bathroom, and it started raining, so while we were in there, the rest of the group went back to the clubhouse (a room big enough for just our group). It was about 10 feet from the bathroom. I got reprimanded for picking the child up and running into the clubhouse, because “he could have been struck by lightning.”

    I guess we were supposed to cower in the bathroom for the remainder of the storm rather than risk 4 seconds in the rain.

  17. The real answer here is of course “just say ‘no’ to bussing”. Around here I parents putting their kids on busses to get the “best school”, when there is a perfectly good school right around the corner. The grass is always greener on the other side, I guess …

  18. If one were to agree stranger harm is so very unlikely (as many who read and comment here do), then it comes down to this: is a five year old safe out in the world without grownups, for a short time? I know mine is, in part because of who he is and in part because I let my kids have some independence and use their brains!

    Thanks for posting, Lenore!

  19. most strangers are good people who will put themselves at risk to help someone else.

    ‘stranger danger’ is a ridiculous idea, and you should keep a list of every person and website that advocates teaching kids ‘stranger danger.’ send them to me, and i’ll argue with them.

  20. We’ve had preschoolers and grade 1 children dropped miles from their homes here, too. Bad news, but so far no deaths. Some of the schools here are now requiring ID from adults picking children up from school because of an abduction/murder where someone picked up a child not her own.

    We never taught my son “stranger danger”, though he did pick it up from TV or his friends. We taught particular circumstances — if someone hurts you, touches your privates or shows you theirs, or tells you to keep a secret — and told him to let us know if any of those things happened, even if it was a family member. The most uncomfortable thing in the world for me to do was to name names, even though I never expected any of these people to harm my child. “Even if it is Grandpa, or Uncle Joe, or Cousin Suzy”

  21. While I agree that this story shouldn’t be news, I can see the thought in the news producer’s head “Stranger helps kid” is the new “Man bites dog” no one wants to think that anyone other than parents are capable or willing to help a child in need.

    The real story however will be whatever arcane “release procedures” the school comes up with. A followup is definitely in order in the coming weeks.

  22. Lenore, thanks for posting good news. We need stuff like this to keep the “Outrage of the Day” in balance a bit.

  23. “The child was returned unharmed.”

    Yeah, he escaped from the slavering dingoes, the prowling pedophilic predators, and the crazed machete-wielding neighbors, and made it home in one piece, living to survive another day. Kee-rist.

  24. Was it really necessary to state that the child was returned unharmed after strangers helped him? (in the article linked)

    I mean, why not say he wasn’t hit by a meteor either – if you get what I mean?

  25. It was like the author of the article was AMAZED that the child was not harmed by these “strangers”.

  26. Joette, I wish my 10yo niece had the common sense your 6yo had. Funny story about her: My niece and her 5yo bro walk home from school. They are not supposed to get in anyone’s car. My sister’s neighbor offered them a ride. Dale wouldn’t get in the car but Ang did. Neither Ang nor the mom driving thought anything of driving off and leaving Dale on the side of the road. Don’t you think the mom would have suggested that Ang get out and walk with her brother? Another story that shows common sense isn’t common anymore.

    I am also a free-range homeschool parent.

  27. Of course it’s nice that folks helped out this little boy–that’s normal! As some people have mentioned, the actual story for the media is “What COULD have happened to him…”, essentially, omg, he’s safe and now…what is that incredibly negligent school district going to do about preventing such horrors in the first place? However, what this mistake on the part of the bus driver/dismissal system will create is more cumbersome, cya policies that we all know do more harm than good. Systems can break down and one does one’s best to rectify errors–but no laying on of a guilt trip for this school district is needed here.

  28. I’ve already got a “Get Out of Jail Free” card with my elementary school. The Middle Child had Homework Club one day a week last year. The school was diligent about me signing the paperwork, and reinforced the fact that they did not provide transportation home (we had to pick up at 3:45 pm). Imagine my horror one cold January day. I stopped by the house in between errands to get the Baby another bottle (yeah, I even brought him in with me; it was 20F out with a wind chill of 9!). The door suddenly opened just as I was going out, and in walked the Middle Child, who’d taken the bus home. The classroom teacher never took him to HC, and the HC teacher never reported to the office that he wasn’t there. Had I not been home, he would have been outside for 20+ minutes! When I drove to the school, they fluffed it off, which I hear they’ve done when it’s happened with other kids.

    What’s the phrase? “Those who live in glass houses…”?

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