A Wichita mother blames a bad bus policy that left her six-year-old daughter home alone. Now, she wants parents to know about it.
At issue here... is at what grade level a child can be dropped-off, without an adult present. According to the state, there's no set age for when a child can be left at home alone. It depends on the circumstances. But the Wichita School District and the mother you are about to meet... have two very different answers.
Six-year-old Sydney and her little sister feel safe riding bikes in their close-knit neighborhood. It was a caring neighbor who called Sydney's mother last week after the first grader was dropped-off here.
"I felt sad,” Sydney said.
But no one was home.
"I would consider that neglect, honestly, because there's no adult there,” Heather Flaherty said.
Flaherty says she had made plans for her daughter to go to Latch Key after school. But she says Sydney's teacher and a Latch Key worker at Christa McAuliffe Academy didn't ask why Sydney didn't show-up at the after-school program.
"I kind of wondered why she didn't ask. Because I had spoken with her that morning,” Flaherty said.
But that's not where Flaherty finds the biggest problem. She wonders why it was acceptable to allow her six-year-old first grader off the bus, without an adult there.
"If you're allowing a kid off the bus, not knowing whether or not there's an adult in the house, you're knowingly letting the kid off the bus to the unknown,” Flaherty said.
Eyewitness News reached-out to the Wichita School District. According to its policy, an adult only needs to be present at a bus stop for kindergartners and students with special needs.
"I didn't know the school board is okay with first graders getting off the bus by themselves with no adult,” Flaherty said.
A district spokeswoman says buses transport 17-thousand students a day. And many buses have three routes. That said, it would be difficult to increase the grade requirement when it comes to needing an adult at the bus stop, because buses would be pressed for time waiting on parents to show-up.
"I'm going to keep going with this. Because I don't think that that's right,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty doesn't want this to happen again to her kids or to someone else.
“You know a kid could get hurt. And who would be liable for that? Would it be me? I don't know. I'm not home. Would it be the bus driver? Would it be the school,” asked Flaherty.
The Wichita School District spokeswoman also said when this incident happened,; it was the first day of school at a new school. And, no other reports like this came up that day.
The district recommends students either know, or, keep their parent's contact information in their backpacks. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child knows which house in the neighborhood he or she should go to, in case something goes wrong. Sydney did all of that.