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Kindergartner gives parents a scare when she skips bus at West Duluth school

Samantha Reed faced what many parents would call their worst nightmare last Wednesday when her 5-year-old daughter did not come home from school on the bus.

“I was pretty hysterical and shocked this could even happen,” Reed said. “I was pretty worried.”

Reed waited for her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old daughter to get off the bus. Her 8-year-old got off the bus, but her 5-year-old was nowhere to be found.

Another parent was waiting at the bus stop, when their child admitted to not seeing Reed’s younger daughter get on the bus.

Reed immediately called Raleigh Academy, a Duluth Edison Charter School, to see if school officials knew what happened to her daughter.

“I was panicking when I called the school,” Reed said. “They told me they were going to check the other buses, but I found out she wasn’t on any of those buses.”

Reed’s daughter was missing for almost 40 minutes. Witnesses spotted the girl standing at the corner of Central Avenue and West Eighth Street — about 1.3 miles from the school — and called the police. Duluth officers drove the child back to the school to be reunited with her parents.

“We are extremely grateful the police brought her to us,” Reed said. “I’m also glad it was warmer that day, and she was appropriately dressed.”

A teacher from the school walked the 5-year-old to the bus, but apparently did not wait for her to get on it. Reed said it was her daughter’s choice to not get on the bus.

“It was her decision to not get on the bus and wait for the teacher to go back into the school,” Reed said. “My daughter said she didn’t want to get on the bus because she wanted to walk home that day.”

Danielle Perich, Raleigh Academy principal, said the school has many procedures and protocols when it comes to children’s safety.

“We have a good and effective protocol we follow,” Perich said. “All the teachers are required to walk their students to the bus. They make sure the children get on the right bus and so forth. During my time as principal, we never had an incident like this one.”

Perich said the school constantly is reviewing the protocol and procedures to make them better and stronger.

“We welcome input from parents and teachers,” Perich said. “We are working closely with bus companies to make sure we have everything in order when it comes to the children’s safety.”

Jack Reed said that every school year he teaches his daughters about safety and what to do in case of an emergency.

“Prior to Wednesday, we thought we had taught our daughters about safety, strangers, what to do in an emergency, making good decisions,” Jack Reed said. “As parents, this situation has certainly made us rethink what we discuss and how often we discuss possible scenarios with our children.”

The Reeds said that they somewhat blame themselves for this incident.

“Do we blame ourselves? Yes and no,” Reed said. “Obviously we’re going to feel like we should have or could have done more, but there is no way of knowing for sure if what we are saying is sinking in, because every kid is different. We certainly take our responsibility as parents very seriously as it is our job to ensure the safety of our children, but while our child is at school, we entrusted that job to the school (teachers and administration) and bus company.”

Samantha Reed said this incident serves as a wakeup call and wants all parents and schools to be aware.

“We are not trying to fault the school, principal or anyone,” Reed said. “We just want other parents to be alert and for schools to check their safety procedures.”