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Handicapped Child Left in Hot School Bus

August 1, 1987

CREST HILL, Ill. (AP) _ A school bus driver has been suspended indefinitely for leaving a handicapped 3 1/2 -year-old girl unattended for 40 minutes in a hot bus while shopping at a mall, authorities said Friday.

The driver, Christena Brown, apparently thought all the children she had picked up at Ludwig Elementary School had been dropped at their homes when she stopped at the mall Thursday, said Tom Casey, general manager of Crawford Bus Service Inc., in suburban Lockport.

Casey said the child had fallen asleep in the seat behind the driver, and that Ms. Brown did not notice her. Company policy requires all drivers to walk the length of their bus before they leave it, Casey said.

Passers-by discovered the child when they heard her crying, Casey said. He said the windows had been left open.

The child was not injured, but was crying and appeared hot and sweaty, said Lockport resident Bill Howard, who was shopping at the center.

″One woman was hanging in the bus fanning (the girl) trying to keep her cool and trying to keep her calm,″ Howard said.

The girl’s parents reported that she was not hurt in the incident, Casey said.

Because the child was wearing leg braces and a restraining strap when police arrived, officers would not allow the child to be removed from the 16- passenger minivan, but waited for the child’s mother and bus company officials to arrive, said police Lt. James Ariagno.

Casey said drivers leave their homes with the minibuses in the morning so it is not unusual for them to stop after their routes are completed to run errands or have lunch.

Because some children ride the bus home in the afternoon and not in the morning, Ms. Brown may not have realized the child was riding the bus that day, Casey said.

″This child had not ridden the bus to school this morning. Her mom had taken her in,″ he said.

Ms. Brown has been suspended until further notice, Casey said.

The Lockport Special Education Cooperative, which hired the bus company, will determine whether the 13-year veteran of the bus company is to be fired or receive probational reinstatement, Casey said.

Ms. Brown could not be reached for comment. Telephone calls to all of the Browns listed in the local telephone directory did not locate the driver.

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