Neither the driver nor the companion, also present during the trip, checked that all the students had gotten out of the vehicle. One association points to the lack of written rules.
Clémence, aged 3, was forgotten for nearly 8 hours on a school bus in Eure-et-Loir on Thursday September 8. It is only when a driver gets back on the bus at 4:30 p.m. that he discovers the child who has neither eaten nor drunk during the day. A chain of malfunctions led to the incident, notably because the little girl’s absence was not reported to the parents by the school.
Each year, a dozen children are inadvertently forgotten on board school buses, according to the National Association for Public Education Educational Transportation (ANATEEP), events that “traumatize the entire school community”.
“We have to ring the alarm bell to mobilize and raise awareness among all the players,” said Éric Breton, director of studies at ANATEEP, to BFMTV.com.
“Instructions are often given orally”
There are no laws or rules governing the obligations of school bus drivers. Each organizer gives instructions, in particular through the driver’s job description. ANATEEP is mobilizing for the establishment of a written charter, in particular because “the instructions are often given orally”, deplores Éric Breton.
In the case of Clémence, the agglomeration of the Pays de Dreux had indeed set up a procedure. “The driver must ensure that the bus is empty: he must go to the back of the bus and press a button to affirm that there is no one left in it”, explains on BFMTV Gérard Sourisseau, president of the agglomeration. A precaution which, in this case, has been omitted.
The presence of an accompanying person not compulsory
There was also a failure at the level of the attendant who was present during this trip. “There is a school guide in addition to the driver because they are kindergarten students,” continues Gérard Sourisseau.
Éric Breton, of ANATEEP, nevertheless specifies that the presence of an accompanying person is not compulsory. “It is the responsibility of the organizing authorities, in particular the municipalities which finance them”, he explains.
“Sometimes, when there is a driver and a guide, each relies on the other and we minimize the responsibility. This is certainly what happened in Eure-et-Loir”, adds Éric Breton.
He also asks that these guides receive training, which is not necessarily always the case.
A dual procedure implemented
Éric Breton nevertheless stresses that school transport is “very safe”. “There were zero fatalities last year,” he said, noting however that the practice needs more formal and written rules.
In order to prevent the situation from happening again, Gérard Sourisseau, president of the agglomeration of the country of Dreux, met with the parents of Clémence, the school, the transport company and local elected officials. They have thus decided to set up a double procedure so that after the verification of the driver, there is another additional verification by a third party at the depot.