(Dear Readers. I wrote this article for a local newspaper a few years ago, when a friend of mine on Facebook was trying to help a friend of hers (the father mentioned in the article) get some media attention for a situation that occurred with his son. I was very disturbed by the story I heard and wrote the article and submitted it to the local newspaper. This article, once online, went viral as the parents attempted to share it with everyone they could, and it got other media in the city interested in covering the story. I was happy to have helped this family. -Frank)
Every Parent’s Nightmare Just Happened
Originally published in September 2012, updated April 20, 2018
Every parent’s nightmare is that the individuals and organizations that we entrust the safety and protection of our children will fail us. Every morning millions of parents send their young children to school hoping that today is not the day that their kids become a news story or marked statistic.
Unfortunately for parents Alain and Anik Doucet, their son Justin had such a day. According to Allain Doucet, on Monday September 9, 2013, his son Justin was riding the school bus home from his first day of grade 2. Justin was the last child on the route to be taken home.
About a 15-minute walk from Justin’s home, the driver stopped the bus. Justin told the driver that this is not where he lives. The driver told Justin, that he refused to drive any further along and that Justin was big enough to go find his own house. Justin…is only 7 years old.
Justin never walked home alone from anywhere his entire short life.
After the driver abandoned Justin, Justin started walking as quickly as he could in the wrong direction for about 5 minutes, got lost, and started crying. It was by SHEER LUCK that Doucet’s cousin France Mousseau, who happened to be driving home from Costco, saw and recognized Justin.
At first Mousseau did not suspect any problem, but when she did not see Justin’s parent’s car, and realized he was in fact alone, she turned her car around to go get him. Mousseau finally caught up with Justin and asked him what happened.
At this point Justin was trembling as Mousseau picked him up, and took the boy home to his parents who were still waiting for the school bus to arrive in their driveway. It was 4:15 pm by the time Justin was returned to his parents. The School day end at 3:35 pm and a direct drive over to Justin’s home is only 11 minutes long.
On the morning of Tuesday September 10, 2013, both parents drove Justin back to Pere Marquette Ecole elementary, and went to talk with the principal of the school. This principal called the commission scolaire des patriotes school board to help remedy the situation.
After the Doucet’s returned home, the principle called them to confirm the driver had been suspended over the incident. When Doucet asked how long the driver was suspended for, or if he would still be employed and be assigned to a different route, or if he was going to get fired, the principal was unable to answer these questions. The principal was only told that the driver was suspended.
After speaking with the principal, Doucet then called the school board directly and asked for a letter to confirm what was going to happen with the driver. The person from the school board told Doucet that such a letter would only be issued for the internal files of the school board, but that such a letter would not be sent to the parents.
What makes this story even more distressing is that this is the SECOND time something like this has happened to the Doucet family.
Last year, on Justin’s first day of Grade 1, the school bus completely passed by the Doucet house where Justin’s mother Anik Doucet was waiting to greet him.
She had to get in her car, and follow the bus for a full ten minutes trying to flag down the driver as Justin tried to tell the driver that he missed his stop. The driver ignored Justin, to the point where Anik had to finally cut off the bus with her car. According to Anik, the chase lasted 10 minutes.
There is no confirmation if this was the same driver or not.
Each year, due to the traveling work obligations of his parents, Justin starts riding the school bus each year on the first Monday after Labor Day. Although the driver in this case may or may not have been informed about the extra stop on his route, that does not excuse abandoning a 7 year old in your care on the street, says Anik.
One can only imagine what could have happened to Justin if fortune had not been on the side of the Doucet family in the form of Guardian Angel France Mousseau. Justin could have gotten lost, hurt, been hit by a car, kidnapped or worse. Although most can agree that this is an absolutely unacceptable situation, the question that remains is: who should answer for this neglectful abandonment of a 7 year old?
If Justin had died or been murdered as a result of this incident, there surely would be much more commotion. Does our system need to have a child die before more serious actions are taken to ensure a certain level of competence and caring on the part of the bus drivers?
“Driving a bus, is not just driving a bus, you have the life of our children in your hands. This driver should not be a school bus driver again” says Doucet.
Dr. Laurie Betito Quotes