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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 10/12/2009

Every Parent's Nightmare

By Valerie Strauss

A 5-year-old boy named Gavin Salinas was mistakenly put on the wrong bus at his school in Alexandria and then dropped off, alone, at an unfamiliar stop. Not knowing what to do, he wandered around the streets, crying.

Luckily he was returned to his parents unharmed. But Rodney and Taryn Salinas were not satisfied with last Monday’s happy ending.

They wanted to know who was responsible--and how the system could be changed to ensure this doesn't happen again to anyone. As they demanded answers from official after official, they learned that many mistakes were made that day. In fact, a little girl was put on the wrong bus, too, but the error was caught in time.

School officials apologized, and what Taryn Salinas called the “chaotic” dismissal system at Gavin’s school, Mount Vernon Community School, was quickly overhauled last week. Officials also assured the Salinas’ that all schools are now reviewing their procedures and will make necessary changes.

This was parent activism at its best. Not only did Taryn Salinas, a researcher at National Geographic Magazine, and her husband Rodney Salinas, a food service director for Restaurant Associates, advocate for their own son, but they became intent on protecting other people’s sons and daughters.

Here Gavin's mother relates her nightmare--and the lessons she carried away:

“It was about 3:30 p.m. on Monday. I was chatting in the hall with a co-worker when I heard my cell phone ring. I reached it too late, and then checked the number. I didn’t recognize the number, but because it started with 703, I immediately called it back. We have two kids (Gavin in kindergarten at MVCS, and a daughter in preschool in Alexandria), and I always want the phone near me in case it’s about them.

“A woman answered the line, and it wasn’t a clear connection. She asked me if I had a son. I said yes. She asked me what his name was and what he was wearing. I answered all these questions, completely taken off-guard, and then asked if Gavin was in the school office.

“She said no, Gavin was with her ... I shouted "What?!" and two co-workers rushed into my office to find out why I sounded so alarmed. The woman told me not to worry, Gavin was fine but he was crying. Someone had found him alone and crying on the sidewalk and brought him to her building.

“At this point I was hyperventilating, asking over and over for her to repeat herself, because the connection was choppy and I was having a hard time understanding the situation. She gave me the address, but I couldn’t hear it clearly, and then the line went dead.

“I hung up and sobbed. My coworkers were trying to calm me down and offered to shut my computer off and drive me to the school. I recomposed myself and called her back, and she again told me not to worry, and gave me the address. I cried hysterically for a little while longer, then composed myself.

“My co-worker then drove me to my car at a parking lot a few blocks away, and I burned rubber to get to that address .... My hands were trembling on the steering wheel and I said a little prayer in my head.

“I found her building easily enough, in the heart of a sprawling apartment complex. I rushed to the front office and saw my boy’s little legs hanging over a chair. As soon as I saw that it was him and he was fast asleep, I practically leapt at the woman to hug her.

“I sobbed again for a moment and then thanked her and asked her questions. She was pretty nonchalant about this and smiled warmly and said he was no trouble. She did express concern that Gavin wasn’t able to tell her his last name or my name or number (because he was too distraught and tired), and she was very concerned that the school gave her my cell phone number to call. (She had gone through his backpack and found the name of the school in there and called them).

“Do you know the crazy fears that went through my mind during this situation, which really only lasted about 40 minutes total but felt like eternity? I thought he could be kidnapped, assaulted, hit by a car, chased or bit by a dog, bullied, trafficked, or held for ransom. When that woman asked me the questions the way she did, it felt like a ransom call straight out of the movies!”


Rodney and Taryn Salinas called numerous officials, including the school principal, the official in charge of school dismissal, the school transportation department, the deputy superintendent for planning and support operations.

Though some changes have already been made in dismissal procedures, the Salinas’ still want school officials to put cross-checks in place so kids don’t fall through the cracks. They also want the school system to publicly acknowledge the mistakes that were made with Gavin and tell the public how they are correcting the problems.

And they deserve to know if there will be any consequences for:

*The teacher who put him on the wrong bus (and who, the Salinas said they were told, missed a mandatory orientation session where dismissal procedures were discussed).
*The bus driver who allowed Gavin to get off a bus without an authorized adult to meet him--a move that violated the rules.
*The staff member(s) who gave the caller Tanya Salinas’ phone number when they called saying they had Gavin. The school should have called the parents immediately upon learning.


Here is what Taryn Salinas said she learned:

1) We can’t rely on young students to remember and repeat their emergency information in such a scary, unusual situation. We had practiced his full name, address and phone number and parents’ names with him, but it failed because he was too upset. So now we’re laminating our business cards and attaching them like luggage tags to both kids’ backpacks.
2. As parents, we have to trust the school to look out for our kids. There was a cascade of errors that allowed this scenario to unfold, and there’s no way we could have predicted this.
3. Parents are their kids’ strongest advocates. We did our own homework to figure out how this happened, and then succinctly drafted a message and sent it to all the relevant people. We couldn’t rely on the school system to rectify this on their own, and so far we’ve gotten positive responses and reassurances that this won’t happen again.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 12, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Parents  | Tags:  Alexandria City Public Schools, boy put on wrong school bus  
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First day of school, first grade. Mom walked me to school. Showed me which intersections had crossing guards. One street to cross was a busy county highway. ( I already knew how to cross the street, and to look both ways. ) She showed me where the playground was to play in before the bell rang, and where to line up with the other kids. She introduced me to my teacher.

From the second day on, I was on my own. I didn't need her to hold my hand, because I already knew the way. I didn't have to worry about getting in the wrong line, or going to the wrong classroom, or following the wrong teacher, because I'd been show the correct ones.

So, apparently these parents failed to show their kid the way home. They failed to show their kid how to find the correct bus, and where to get off at the correct stop. They must have failed to introduce their kid to the correct bus driver, too.

Is it just me, or do these parents sound negligent? Did they fail to teach their kid how to protect themselves, how to get home safely, how to avoid getting lost?

"They wanted to know who was responsible".

Maybe they need to look in the mirror?

Posted by: seattle_wa | October 12, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Wow Seattle, did she also push you into the lake and tell you to swim after one lesson?

Posted by: SWB2 | October 12, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

fr seattle _wa:

>...So, apparently these parents failed to show their kid the way home. They failed to show their kid how to find the correct bus, and where to get off at the correct stop. They must have failed to introduce their kid to the correct bus driver, too.

Is it just me, or do these parents sound negligent? Did they fail to teach their kid how to protect themselves, how to get home safely, how to avoid getting lost?

"They wanted to know who was responsible"....<

It is clearly the SCHOOL who is responsible, and I would calling for them to be FIRED.

Posted by: Alex511 | October 12, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for your positive contribution to this discourse, by criticizing the parents who both suffered through this and took matters into their own hands. What are you doing posting here, when you could be clubbing baby seals to reduce crowding of our oceans? I don't know how school systems operate where you are, but the ones I am familiar with have strict rules about hand-off of children between parents and the school, and back, for security reasons. Acting independently of these rules can be frowned upon for the risks created. So in their case, I see a clear fault of the school in bungling the hand-off, and the school should indeed be held liable.

Posted by: AmitDC | October 12, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"...I burned rubber to get to that address..."


It's a good thing she didn't create a tragedy in her haste to get to her child. She could have hit a pedestrian -- possibly even another child on his way home from school. Every parent understands the dread you feel when your child's safety is at risk, but I would be concerned if a self-admitted hysterical person were "burning rubber" down my street.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | October 12, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

It is dearly tempting to insult you, but instead I'll just say that most school districts limit the participation of parents in the busing process because they they have enough to coordinate with schedules, routes, personnel, etc. Parents might be told which bus number, but may not be allowed to participate - further, the drivers may change frequently.

I admire the quick effort of the Salinas' for the children of their school district.

I would make one different recommendation - YANK the "luggage tags" and put the laminated cards or ID on the INSIDE of the backpack. Of the other nightmare scenarios that went through your head, many involve a stranger easily getting too much info about your kid and establishing their trust by talking about their house or parents.

Posted by: ohiomc | October 12, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Putting a student on the wrong bus in the first place is a mistake that is at least somewhat understandable. But why on earth would the bus driver allow a 5 year old to get off the bus alone at what should clearly have been the wrong stop for the boy? This is the most egregious and unforgivable mistake and the driver should be fired.

Yes, parents need to be diligent about emphasizing to their children where their bus stop is, how to recognize it, and that under no circumstances should they get off the bus at any other place and unless someone is there to pick them up. But you really cannot trust a 5 year old to question what they are instructed to do by their teachers.

Posted by: Virginia3 | October 12, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Scary stuff.

It is important children learn their full name and phone number before starting school. This story illustrates that.

Attaching contact info to the kid's backpack is a good idea. Teach the little guy what it says and why it's important.

The worst we ever faced was a child "forgetting" to get off the bus in front of our house. About 45 minutes later the bus driver brought him back after he completed his route. It never happened again. It's how some kids learn, I guess.

My heart goes out to seattle_wa. When I tell people about life as a kid in the 1960's, they look at me like as if I was Spanky or Alfalfa from The Little Rascals. Walking to the store to get milk cigarettes for Mom. Biking all day around the neighborhood. Exploring nearby woods and fields without any supervision...

(And yes, we did make push cars from scrap wood and wheels. LOL)

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | October 12, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

ohiomc, thanks for keeping this civil.

The school obviously made mistakes here, and one looks like a Doozie, when they gave out contact information over to phone to a third party. That should never have happened.

But, I have to ask once again, what kind of parent fails to teach a 5 year old their name? Address? Which bus to get on, and where to get off the bus? This is not rocket science, kids do know how to get home you know.

For the rest of you who seem to think that discussing parenting is a full-body-contact-sport, I have to say that being a parent involves accepting some responsibility, too. Responsibility for teaching your own kid their own name and address. Not exactly the same as "clubbing baby seals", is it?

Posted by: seattle_wa | October 12, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

As important as the other points, there should be a big, hearty thank you for the deceptively simple act of kindness the woman showed by taking care of Gavin. She ensured a happy ending. It's comforting to be reminded there are people like her out in the world.

Posted by: flabbergast | October 12, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse


"But, I have to ask once again, what kind of parent fails to teach a 5 year old their name? Address? Which bus to get on, and where to get off the bus? This is not rocket science, kids do know how to get home you know."

Did you not make it to the end of the article?

The parents *did* teach the kid emergency information and it still failed. You can make all the plans and drill your kids incessantly. And then life, and your previously untried 5 year old's panic and upset happens.

In this case the kid was just too upset to remember the drill. What do you do then? Get mad at the kid?

As for what your mom taught you - good for you both, but perhaps the circumstances don't apply in terms of logistics. For starters, not everyone goes to school in neighborhoods with walkable streets.

Posted by: viennamom | October 12, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

seattle_wa, did you actually read the article? They DID teach their son his last name, address, and his parents' contact information. But he was unable to tell the woman who found him because he was exhausted and confused and upset and 5 years old.

Posted by: coryanderx | October 12, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that my views are much in line with those of seattle_wa. I don't think we need to go through the exercise of finger pointing, but children should be taught to question their environment, and speak up when something feels awry.

Posted by: aerdmann | October 12, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I like what Fairfax does with kindergarten students. Someone has to be at the bus stop to receive the child or else the driver takes the child back to the school.

Posted by: mortified469 | October 12, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I have to sympathize with seattle_wa. This mother completely freaked out. This sounds like overprotection at its best. Was the kid hurt? No. The chances the kid could have been hurt were higher than usual, but still very, very low. Hardly the cause for hysteria. Attacking the school seems very unnecessary. Do they live in the kind of place where a child standing on the street is going to be kidnaped or beaten or taken care of? Where I live, anybody would help out a lost kid and there'd be little to worry about.

Posted by: kent_eng | October 12, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse


"children should be taught to question their environment, and speak up when something feels awry."

At five? Really? Do you have kids? Have they been as young as five recently? (I say that because I'm always surprised by how quickly we can forget what kids were or weren't doing as little ones once they're grown.)

Point being, not all kids are able to do that - whether we think they should be able to or not is a different matter.

If you do/did have kids and you think they'd do that at age five, you're lucky. Most kids I know would either just cry (which doesn't always alert people to things, especially if they're with an adult - could just be the kid having a difficult moment) or worse, make friends and go along with things, thereby alerting no one to anything whatsoever.

Posted by: viennamom | October 12, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Hello all, this is Taryn Salinas, Gavin's mom. I couldn't resist making three comments:
1. Gavin was not supposed to be put on a bus at all. He attends an aftercare program in the school and should have gone there.
2. I regret saying I "burned rubber"! It's a cliche, and not true. I went the fastest I could for the speed limits, but I didn't speed.
3. We have thanked the woman who protected Gavin profusely! She's a wonderful person and we all went as a family to thank her and give her artwork from the kids.

Posted by: taryncos | October 12, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

seattle_wa: How judgmental of you. I have a five-year-old as well, and we have drilled her many times on her name, address, phone number, and what to do if strangers approach her or if she gets lost. But if she was upset, she might well be unable to communicate all that information clearly. Gavin's parents also taught their son their contact info, but it was not his fault that he was upset or that the school failed to keep him safe.

I'm seconding ohiomc's suggestion to put the emergency info *inside* the child's bags (so passing strangers can't see it), as well as Virgina3's critique of the bus driver's negligence in dropping off a 5-year-old on the street, all alone. Not every child lives close enough to school to walk home, unfamiliar neighborhood or not. Was Gavin supposed to have the entire city map memorized? He may not even have noticed that he was on the wrong street until after th bus door closed and left him there. Many, many thanks to the woman who was resourceful enough to get him back safely to his parents. I hope we all have such guardian angels looking out for our kids every day.

Posted by: DCmama99 | October 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Does his bus have patrols? The patrols know the name of the students and what bus they are supposed to be on? At my daughters school they would have told the bus driver that they had never seen him before and not to let him on the bus.

I'm sorry you had to live through the nightmare. Thank you to the woman who saved him. She is an angel in my book!!

Posted by: shdd | October 12, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Good for Gavin's parents for taking this up to every relevant level in the school district. No one else would do this on your behalf if you didn't.

I'm surprised at some commentators who treat this event as not that big of a deal. Five year olds are incredibly gullible and innocent, and not always aware of their physical surroundings. Alexandria is a big "town" and it's too much to expect a 5-year-old to know their surroundings enough to find their way home after being dropped off on a street that wasn't their own.

Posted by: detitta | October 12, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Seattle is absolutely RIGHT.

The Salinases are clearly going to become helicopter parents who are going to try to control everything about their kid, even from the grave.

I pity the kid -- and the apologists for poor parenting.

Posted by: bs2004 | October 12, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

wow...just wow.

I am trying to figure out how some of you have decided that the parents of this child are suddently going to become "helicopter parents!"

Read the story - the child was supposed to be at an afterschool program, was put on a bus to which he did not belong (he is FIVE) and dropped off in a completely different neighborhood from which he lived and was found, lost, alone and crying.

I CANNOT imagine what it would feel like to have an absolute stranger call me in the middle of the afternoon and inquire about my child's name and what he was wearing - until you see that your child is safe and sound, of course you are going to be upset - how does that translate to helicopter?

Let us not forget, he is FIVE - and the Salinas entrusted the school to keep him at the after school program and put him on the proper bus - which they DID NOT do. Questioning it and wanting answers are what good parents do. I was raised by the complete opposite of a helicopter parent, but I can assure you that if I was put on the wrong bus and allowed to wander through the streets of my small upstate NY hometown, the school would have to answer some questions.

Posted by: suzannepdc | October 12, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Taryn, I sympathize with you totally. The same thing happened to my kindergarten daughter last year in Prince George's County. She was supposed to attend an aftercare there and decided for some reason to get on the pm bus. Luckily, a relative was home when she got to my house. The school let her go and directed her to the proper bus. Despite the card in her bookbag stating she was to stay at the aftercare. When I told the teacher (she had a sub that day who let my daughter leave the classroom), she immediately tried to put the responsibility on my daughter. The school and aftercare all either deflected blame or pointed to someone else, but I insisted on a plan to avoid this happening again. Of course I also talked to my daughter.

Kids are going to be kids, and not every child is going to do everything right all the time. Even if the parents teach them what they need to do. Bottom line, when your child is in the school system, the system (including the transportation people) are responsible for your child's safety. Period.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 12, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree w/ seattle_wa on this one.

This parent has a 5 year old child. It is that parents responsibility to teach that child what they are to do after school.

At some point in time the child should've known to speak up and say "Hey, Ms. Teacher, my mom said I should go to after care"....not just simply get on the bus.

Even after the child got on the bus and the bus driver was letting the child off the child should've spoken up and said "Hey, Ms. Busdriver, my mom isn't around"...which in turn would have made the driver think about what was happening.

My son is 8...for the last 4 years I have taken off work the 1st week of school to be sure he knows what he is to be doing before and after school.

It is up to us to teach our children to speak up when something doesn't seem right. Clearly, this child was not taught that.

Salinas, please teach your child that it is ok to speak up when they are in an unfamiliar environment. This could've clearly ended up quite worse than it did. Just imagine if your child is being touched improperly by someone....he won't know when to speak up.

Just my .02

Posted by: gcyamr1 | October 12, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Rather than laminate a card to your kids' backpacks, check out this: It's a little engraved metal tag you can attach to your childrens' (or your own) shoes. They are made for runners, but they work well for this type of experience. Cheap cheap cheap peace of mind. I wear one of these and also gave to my nephews.

Posted by: khachiya1 | October 12, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I certainly hope these perfect parents are around to give me advice when my son starts school.

My neighborhood has no sidewalks, the route to school crosses a road with a 50 MPH speed limit and no crossing guard, and the bus driver turnover is to such a degree that the kids AVERAGE three drivers a year.

So my child will be riding a bus, with unfamiliar drivers that change often. But something going wrong will be the fault of my parenting, got it.

Anyone with the slightest amount of imagination can picture a scenario where a child might fall asleep on a bus. Or might be docile enough to get on a bus when ordered by an adult even if he thought he was supposed to stay at school. Or might get off a bus when ordered by an adult, and then panic when he realizes he doesn't know where he is.

But I'll be sure to remember that anything going wrong is my fault somehow!

Posted by: Sanya2135 | October 12, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

fr gcyamr1:

>...At some point in time the child should've known to speak up and say "Hey, Ms. Teacher, my mom said I should go to after care"....not just simply get on the bus.

Even after the child got on the bus and the bus driver was letting the child off the child should've spoken up and said "Hey, Ms. Busdriver, my mom isn't around"...which in turn would have made the driver think about what was happening....<

More than likely a 5 year old child won't know to do that. What the Salinas family did was 100% RIGHT.

Posted by: Alex511 | October 12, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Good lord. The dopes on this board are ming boggling. That darn 5 year old! Why didn't he just pull himself up by his own bootstraps!? I mean, how childish of him to be scared and not speak up just because some adults dumped him in a strange neighborhood. I mean, why didn't he cross examine those teachers?? Seattle: Your Mom may have told you how to get to and from school. Pity she apparently didn't teach you common sense, manners or empathy.

Posted by: christophermdavis | October 12, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I, too, am amazed at all of you who expect adult behavior from a FIVE-year-old. From a SCARED 5yo at that. When our school did something similar to my 5yo, he thought that they knew better than what he knew. He thought he needed to TRUST the people in charge. I mean what if something had changed during the day and this poor mom called up and asked for her son to be sent home on the bus or something else? Should the son not have gone because that wasn't his normal routine?

We HAVE to trust the schools to do the right thing with the little kids. That is their responsibility. THat is why the US Government pays schools to have fewer than 20 kids in each K class. If you cannot keep track of 20 kids, then you should not be teaching the lower grades. Period.

This poor mother. And father. I cannot imagine how they felt and to try to change the system so it doesn't happen to other kids and have all these uninformed, nasty comments is unreal. Intelligent people should be able to disagree without resorting to name-calling. You may not agree that the school was wrong, the teacher was wrong and the office worker (oh my - that is bad giving out that number!!) was wrong, but you can state that in a better way. I would hope.

In any case, my sympathies are with the parents and my appreciation for them trying to change the way things are done.

Posted by: Stormy1 | October 12, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Geesh. Do you people who are blaming the kid have 5-year olds? It was the first week of school, and he was most likely exhausted and just doing what he was told because he was too tired to realize something was wrong. If you have ever been in a full-day kindergarten classroom, by the end of the day those kids are totally wiped out and in no condition to have to "fight the system."

And as for calling the Salinas's helicopter parents, um, what? They did their best to make sure this didn't happen to another child. They should be applauded for that. SO many different people at Gavin's school made mistakes that day; it's really appalling.

Posted by: floof | October 12, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse


"This parent has a 5 year old child. It is that parents responsibility to teach that child what they are to do after school."

Children learn by degrees. I, too, took public transportation from a young age. My parents taught me how, first taking me on the route and then, when they were satisfied I could handle the transfers between different types of transport, allowing me to travel by myself. They gave me the skills appropriate for my routine. I learned gradually, with increasing confidence and skill. I was not dropped off all by myself and left to find my way home.

In contrast, Gavin was taken *out* of his routine completely. Unlike Seattle_wa, who was taught how to walk home and was presumably expected to do so every day, Gavin expected to stay at school and be picked up by his parents. The school failed him - at least four times, by my count: letting him on the bus, not noticing he was absent from after-care, letting him out at the wrong stop without the parent or caregiver there, and giving out his mother's contact information without tracking him down themselves.

Then, too, kids differ widely in their capabilities. Maybe you know a five-year-old who's smart enough to get home if dropped off in an unfamiliar neighborhood, without assistance, transportation, a GPS, prior training, or maps (I don't, personally). One five-year-old might not be the sort to speak up in unusual circumstances, but might be a good navigator if lost. Another might be shy but strong. Regardless, it's the job of the grown-ups who are charged with their care to keep them safe so they can learn all these life skills without finding themselves in danger.

"My son is 8...for the last 4 years I have taken off work the 1st week of school to be sure he knows what he is to be doing before and after school."

Well, good for you. By my reckoning, kids have been in class for seven weeks already, so if you were Gavin's parent you wouldn't have been at his school either to catch the mix-up. I will assume Gavin knew *his* routine well enough, and his mother has already indicated that she gave him tools with which to cope in an emergency. He is five, and he trusted the grownups around him. But no doubt by the time he is eight he, too, will be much savvier about grownups who don't take the extra step to ensure that their smallest charges are safe and where they should be. (To say nothing of grownups who appear to be blaming the victim.)

Again, I think the fault here lay with a system that lacked checks and back-up procedures - *not* with the Salinas' parenting style. I think they have, in fact, done us all a service, by reminding us to give our children as much preparation as possible for unexpected situations; to double-check the safety procedures... and then hope that we catch a lucky break if the unforeseeable happens.

Posted by: DCmama99 | October 12, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

OK,lets see now, five year old Gavin should know all the streets in Alexandria, challenge the bus driver, challenge the teacher, when lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood should not be scared and cry but instead, remember his address and telephone number. He might as well refuse to leave the school building during fire drills since those same adults are telling him what to do. I guess he should use his 5 yr old judgement instead of listening to police officers or firefighters. You people are nuts! The school employees involved were negligent, Gavin's parents are doing the right thing. Take at look at the VA State Police Sex Offenders Registry website and see how many predators live in Alexandria and then let your 5 yr old find his or her way home and let us know how it works out.

Posted by: baileyfx | October 12, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for being the best kind of mom - one who advocates not just for her own child, but for everyone's kids.

Tell your son that he had a chance to practice his courage. And all of us, even adults, need lots of practice with that. And later, when he's old enough to understand, tell him that in the middle of the chaos, he found the face of compassion and grace. That's something to hold on to as he goes through life.

Posted by: trace1 | October 13, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Don't get things confused, I sympathize with the Salinas and commend them for their actions....and I would never name-call or anything of that nature. I am simply expressing my point of view.

I'm not saying that the child should have challenged the adult in any way. What I am saying is that the child was put into an unfamiliar environment. At some point the child should be able to bring it to an adults attention that this isn't his "norm". Which would ring a bell with an adult to look further into this situation. If he has been at school for 7 weeks now he should automatically know that he doesn't ride a bus after school at 5 years old.

I agree, it is the schools responsibility to get the child where he should be, but when the schools fail, we need to prepare our children to help themselves along by speaking up to an adult that something isn't right.

I have 3 children that are 18, 17, and 8. I let them know at a young age that if something doesn't seem right to talk to an adult ASAP.

We all know that the government run systems fail us from time to time. So we cannot rely on that in any way. We have to prepare our children with a backup plan. This may be the 1st time the Salinas' have been failed by the system, but I can guarantee it wont be the prepare the children now.

Posted by: gcyamr1 | October 13, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I've been a public school teacher for 16 years. I certainly feel in this case that the school was at fault, not the parent. Once the school was informed Gavin wasn't where he was supposed to be, they should have immediately sent a school employee to the apartments where Gavin was. Getting a responsible adult to the child is the number one priority whenever things go awry, which does happen from time to time. While the school employee was en route, Gavin's parents should have been called by the school, not the lady in the apartment complex. Why? Because once a parent leaves a child at school, that child should remain with school personnel until the parent returns to pick the child up. The school staff should have "burned rubber" to get to their misplaced student.

Posted by: prestonlewis | October 13, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Stuff happens.

The kid is safe. Let's move on.

The school is in an upper middle class neighborhood so of course there is outrage.

Posted by: mediajunky | October 13, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I had a similiar situation with my six year old. Thank God he knew how to get home and was waiting for me inside our apartment building. The bus drivers should NOT release young students out into the streets unaccompanied. I think even 1st and 2nd graders are too young to be left alone on bus stops. The driver may not know that the student actually lives more than a few blocks away or even a has to cross a busy street to get home. And teachers should pay attention to where a student has to go from that classroom. Anything could result from this simple mistake, aside from emotional distress.
My son goes to a Fairfax County Magnet school with more than 1000 students. Schools need to have more staff there at dismissal time to avoid these kind of "nightmares."

Posted by: uvas22 | October 13, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse


"Taryn Salinas said that she and her husband had drilled Gavin in basic family information but that he was too distraught to talk after he got lost. The boy has a slight speech delay and had received special services through preschool at Mount Vernon. "

On the same day, the school also put a little girl on the wrong bus, and they were also at the beginning of a two-week intersession, when Gavin would have been with new or different teachers (i.e., an unfamiliar routine).

Stop blaming the parents. The school let him down.

Posted by: DCmama99 | October 13, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm wonder where the zero tolerance policy is for school officials and employees.

Posted by: patricke1 | October 15, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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