School bus no-show leaves boy, 6, alone on rural West Auckland road

By Dubby Henry

The mother of a 6-year-old who was left waiting for his school bus on a rural road for nearly an hour says she's now "paranoid" about leaving him at the secluded spot.

Ritchies bus company covers the route to Oratia District School in West Auckland, where Daniel Morgan attends school.

But his mum Tracy said this morning the bus never came, leaving her son stranded alone for the second time this term. And with recent abduction attempts fresh in her mind, she fears Ritchies is "putting our children at risk".

Each day at 8.10am Morgan leaves Daniel at the bus stop at the bottom of her driveway with a group of local kids while she heads to Titirangi to drop her 3-year-old at kindergarten. The bus, which serves Oratia District School, Bruce McLaren Intermediate and Henderson High School, is meant to arrive between 8.15-8.20am.

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But this morning, Morgan had to race home to pick him up after a local mum saw Daniel still waiting, alone, in the driveway at 8.30am. Children in surrounding streets were also waiting for the bus.

A similar incident on February 7 saw Daniel waiting at 9am. A neighbour called to let her know he was taking the boy to school after the bus failed to arrive.

Recent reports of children being abducted have left Morgan feeling "panicked" about the possibility of the same thing happening to her son.

In November last year, an 11-year-old boy was abducted and sexually assaulted in nearby Ranui, and two further attempted abductions were reported in Henderson in December.

A man also attempted to abduct an 11-year-old girl in St Heliers last month.

"I'm absolutely paranoid now, wondering can I rely on the bus service?," Morgan said. "It's really scary.

"I can just see somebody cottoning onto this. Some lowlife picking them up, and fingers being pointed left right and centre, saying 'This has been going on since the beginning of year'."

And she wonders, if something did happen: "Does that make me the bad mum because I put him there?"

A February meeting between Ritchies and the school was meant to have resolved the problem, but after this morning's repeat incident Morgan now fears Ritchies is "putting our children at risk".

The school follows procedure to contact parents if a student doesn't arrive, but Morgan said she might not receive such a message for hours.

"If somebody takes my son, I'm not going to know until three to four hours later. And where would you even start looking?

"It's a rural area, with native trees. We live in this area for this lifestyle, giving our kids the bush to play in - but we need to know the bus service works."

Oratia District School principal Sherilee Swanepoel said the school is concerned about students being left stranded.

Ritchies did not contact the school this morning, she said, and said director Andrew Ritchie was unaware there had been issues.

Ritchies would be meeting with the school in the next few days, Swanepoel added. If things did not improve, the school would consider using a different bus company.

Bruce McLaren Intermediate principal Liz Wood said the school was also "working through issues" with Ritchies to ensure students arrived on time.

Ritchies director Andrew Ritchie declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.

Ministry of Education head of education infrastructure service, Kim Shannon, said the bus service is contracted directly to the group of schools, with ministry funding, rather than being ministry-run.

But the ministry was "very concerned to hear that children have been left on the side of the road and we will follow up with the school to offer them assistance in managing their services", Shannon said.

"Sometimes road conditions or unforeseen circumstances mean buses can be delayed so we advise parents not to leave young children unsupervised on the side of the road."

- NZ Herald

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