Bus driver, district official abandoned students at locked school, Orange County parents say

Orange County News

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Parents with children in the Orange County School district are frustrated after they say their children were abandoned at Cedar Ridge High School in the cold after dark last week.

Tia Ladegast said her 17-year-old son was among several students dropped off by a substitute bus driver at the high school about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Ladegast said the school bus driver was taking the students home when the district told her a student started causing problems on the bus.

“The bus driver apparently feared for her safety and that’s when she took all these children back to school and just dropped them off,” Ladegast said.

When Ladegast got to Cedar Ridge High School to pick up her son, she saw five students standing in the dark outside the locked school building waiting for their parents to pick them up.

She said her son told her an assistant principal was there when the students first got off the bus.

But the teen said that assistant principal did not stay to make sure all the students got home, because she was required by the district to go to a basketball game at another campus.

Ladegast said that was no excuse for leaving her son and several other students in the dark and cold.

“You have three assistant principals at the school, you could’ve made a phone call and you could’ve said ‘Hey, I’m gonna be late. Can you get somebody else to go over there’,” Ladegast said.

The Orange County School District would not talk on camera on Monday, but they told CBS 17 they did open up an investigation following the incident.

“The students, per district protocol, were taken back to Cedar Ridge High School as a disciplinary measure for some students being unruly onboard the bus. We are working closely with this driver, and they will be retrained in how to handle situations like this in the future,” said Jake Henry, Chief Operations Officer for Orange County Schools.

Henry also confirmed that a staff member from Orange County Schools should have remained with the students.

“Unfortunately, a number of things that should have happened did not. For this, we greatly apologize,” Henry said. “We are currently reviewing the breakdowns in communication and protocols to ensure this never happens again.”

Henry added that there was a second bus that arrived to pick up the students, but that some students opted to wait at the school for their parents to pick them up.

Ladegast said she just hopes the district does something to prevent this from happening again.

“It shouldn’t come to the parents having to come to the rescue of these children when the administration has abandoned them,” Ladegast said.

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