MCPS mistakenly transports Rockville H.S. student with autism to Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Bus mishap lands DC-area child with autism in Baltimore. (Photo: ABC7)

A 15-year-old Rockville High School student with autism missed his Silver Spring bus stop, and was ultimately taken to Baltimore.

Around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the boy's parents called police and reported their son as missing. Police worked with Montgomery County Public Schools to locate the bus' whereabouts. They learned it was parked at the Holiday Inn a few blocks from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Montgomery County Police sent multiple units to the hotel and found the boy around 8:10 p.m. Officers returned the teen, who is nearly non-verbal, to his home along English Turn Drive in Fairland around 8:45 p.m., more than six hours after afternoon dismissal. The boy was uninjured.

A spokesman for MCPS explained that both the bus driver and bus aide were filling in on the route. However, bus drivers are given "route sheets" to help identify which special needs students should disembark at each stop. MCPS policy also mandates a parent or guardian "receive" each special needs student at the bus stop.

In addition to Rockville High School, the bus also regularly picks up students at Earle B. Wood Middle School in Rockville and Cresthaven Elementary School in Silver Spring. The final stop is at an address in Baltimore.

When asked why a Montgomery County bus was transporting students to Baltimore, MCPS explained there are a variety of "out of district" exemptions including, homelessness policies and specialty programs. Rockville High School, for example, operates both an autism and deaf/hard of hearing program.

"I think it's terrifying," said 15-year-old Samuen Nguyen who lives across the street from the victim.

Last school year, Nguyen inadvertently walked onto the wrong school bus following afternoon dismissal at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.

"I realized at the first stop, and I just panicked. I should've gotten off at the first stop, but I didn't know what to do. I went on three more stops and I was a lot farther away from home then I should have been."

Nguyen ultimately got off the bus at a random stop, and used his cell phone to call his parents. They picked him up on the side of the road a short while later..

To its credit, MCPS operates more than 1,300 buses, and safely transports 103,000 students to and from school every weekday. Nguyen, however, remains critical of what happened to his neighbor.

"I do think they should've done more," Nguyen opined. "I think the driver should have paid more attention to what was happening and who was on the bus."

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