School apologizes after father says his daughter went missing three times on their watch

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Video captured a father's frustration with his 5-year-old daughter's elementary school after he said his daughter was left behind for the third time this year when the school bus took other kids home.

The video, posted to Facebook on March 2, has been shared more than 24,000 times online, and school officials apologized, saying "the whole thing wasn't handled well."

Tristan King berated staff at Norton Elementary School in Snellville, Georgia, on Feb. 28 when his kindergartner didn't get on the school bus. The video shows King cursing at school staff and demanding to speak to the principal.

School officials have apologized to King and the rest of the Norton Elementary community for the incident. Principal Melanie Lee sent a letter to parents Thursday explaining what happened.

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"Mr. King had every right to be upset and the whole thing wasn't handled well," Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said in a statement. "School officials have reviewed things on their end and some new policies and procedures have been put in place."

School officials arranged for an adult to escort King’s daughter and her older brother to the bus daily from now on.

King said he was told he would not be allowed on school property anymore without a police escort, but school officials said that’s incorrect: “The resource officer told Mr. King that if he didn’t calm down and refrain from using profanity, that’s something that could happen,” Roach said. “The principal has no desire to pursue that action.”

The tongue-lashing was sparked by a frantic call from King’s fourth-grade son alerting him that the girl wasn’t on the bus.

“He called us screaming that his sister wasn’t on the bus and they wouldn’t wait for her or let him off to find her,” King said.

Earlier incidents happened at the beginning of the school year and again shortly after winter break, according to King.

“We didn’t make a big deal about it the first time,” King said. “School had just started and everyone was getting used to the routine.”

King and his wife were not as forgiving when, in January, school officials told them that their daughter didn’t make it onto the bus.

“I got the call around 3:15 and was told we had to get her by 4,” King said.

Both parents work in Buford, Georgia, and with traffic, there was no way to make it down Interstate 85 in less than an hour. They enlisted the aid of a relative who got the girl before the deadline.

“We were told there was a teacher party and nobody would be there,” King said.

That prompted the Kings to work with school officials to set up a procedure to ensure both children made it on the bus every day. The son was to come to the sister’s class to escort her to the bus. And to make sure they knew right away if anything was amiss, they bought their son a cellphone.

The plan was followed for a few weeks, King said, but then everything went back to the way it had been.

Despite the principal’s letter, King said the issue isn’t resolved.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone,” he said. “I’m worried that this is an epidemic that has been swept under the rug.”

After the video went viral, King said parents from all over the country have contacted him, saying they’ve had similar experiences.

Gwinnett County Schools transports over 130,000 children by bus daily and strives to get everyone to their final destinations without incident, Roach said.

“Sometimes these things happen,” she said.”We try to avoid that and fix the problems as quickly and efficiently as we can.”

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