A 14-year-old autistic student from Montgomery County ended up in Baltimore on Wednesday when his afternoon school bus drop-off did not go as planned, authorities said.
The student at Rockville High School was not harmed and was in the custody of the school bus driver and bus attendant throughout the episode, school officials said Thursday.
The problem started shortly after school let out at 2:30 p.m., when the teenager boarded his school bus, which was scheduled to make two stops — one in Silver Spring, where the student usually gets off, and another in Baltimore, where another student lives.
Rockville High School, about 35 to 40 miles from Baltimore, has programs for students with autism and those with hearing impairment. In some cases, students from other areas attend.
It remained unclear whether the bus went to Silver Spring and the student did not get out — or whether the bus failed to make its stop in Silver Spring, said school system spokesman Derek Turner.
The student’s parents called school officials and police when they could not locate their son. The police call came in shortly before 6:30 p.m.
Montgomery County officers traveled to Baltimore and transported the student home, said Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a police spokeswoman. Montgomery police worked with Baltimore police to find the bus and confirm the student was aboard, she said.
The student, who was not identified by authorities because of student privacy laws, was reunited with his parents at 8:46 p.m., Innocenti said.
School officials are investigating the incident, and no action has been taken against the bus operator or attendant, said Turner, the school system spokesman.
“It’s a scary situation,” Turner said. “The good news is the student was always in the custody of the bus driver and the attendant.”
Montgomery, as most school systems, has had other instances of students getting off at the wrong stop or missing their stop, Turner said. This was unusual because the mix-up took the student so far from home.
“Often it’s close to the neighborhood, so there’s not a lot of anxiety,” Turner said.
Lyda Astrove, a longtime advocate for students with special needs in Montgomery, said school district leaders need to address issues related to how long the student’s parents were without answers about their son’s whereabouts.
She voiced concerns about the student’s level of distress and asked whether the bus had an internal camera that would depict the lengthy period when the student was aboard the vehicle.
“They need to do a review of everything that happened,” she said.
In August, allegations that a 12-year-old Montgomery student with special needs was sexually assaulted by her bus driver sparked concerns about procedures and safeguards for some of the school system’s most vulnerable children, prompting a broad review.