Easy to feel for 4-year-old put on school bus in underpants but is school the problem?

The story of the 4-year-old put on his school bus by a Fulton County elementary school in his skivvies because of a bathroom mishap is getting a lot of attention.

My question: Is the outrage over this incident — which led the teacher to resign Friday — symptomatic of our expectation now that schools cover all the bases including having replacement clothes at the ready?

While someone in the school attempted to find clothing for the child, a teacher wrapped a sweatshirt around his waist to conceal his underwear. Somehow, he was put on the bus to his aftercare program before an outfit was found, according to the principal. Apparently, the daycare center also did not have extra clothing on hand since the director called the mom to come collect the little boy.

Mother Janet Burgo said the Fulton school didn’t call her, but was it too late in the day given the child had to board a bus for his aftercare program?

Burgo wants the school to punish other teachers who might have seen her child in his underwear, telling Channel 2 Action News, “How do you walk by a school full of teachers and get on a bus in your underwear in 40 degree weather?”

According to the AJC:

A Fulton County mom is furious after her preschooler arrived to aftercare in his underwear, according to Channel 2 Action News. A daycare director called Janet Burgo to tell her she needed to pick her 4-year-old son up Friday afternoon because he arrived on the bus from Feldwood Elementary School underdressed.

“They put him half naked, in my opinion, on the bus in the cold,” Burgo told Channel 2. “It’s unacceptable to put my child on a bus in his underwear in 40-degree weather.”

“J WAS TRAUMATIZED! He was so upset, embarrassed, and hurt! It broke my heart to see my son mistreated that way and so distressed. He looked so sad and miserable when he saw me and seemed to finally let go of his resolve and broke down and started to cry then started vomiting!”

Clearly, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the little boy, but is there another side to consider? A frequent theme in some of the complaints I hear from parents is that schools fail to step in and function as surrogate parents.

Among reader complaints I’ve received over the last nine months:

  1. My high school student forgets his pens and pencils a lot and teachers are tired of it and not providing them to him any longer, He is being docked points for not being able to complete the class work.
  2. My child left her wallet at home and didn’t have money to buy lunch on a field trip, and her teachers did not lend her money for lunch. She had to beg some cookies off a friend.
  3. My child left her smartphone charging in the back of a classroom and forgot it. When she returned it was gone, and the school refused to search all the kids in the classroom to see if any of them had the phone.

What do you think?

Reader Comments 0

16 comments
Another comment
Another comment

Why didn't she provide a change of clothes? The mother has made it clear that the pants issue was due to an #2 problem. So I ask why did you send him to school when he had explosive #2 aka dysentery. Which is possible contagious? The school put underwear on him. If he just had a #2 his pants could have gone back on. So why was she not concerned about the kid having dysentery.

I was at a NE Cobb County Pool and an Aquatherapy/ PT swim instructor was working with a 2-3 year old child with downssyndrome in the pool. At one pt he made a face and she immediately said are you pooping your pants? I later asked you what would you do? She said Oh, he sometimes does that when he does not want to participate. I learned after the first time to watch and not allow that. She also told me that even he can control it and knows how to tell you. We have made that real clear to him and the parents, it won't be tolerated. If an accident happens the whole pool has to be closed a min. Of 8 hrs. Which is a lot of angry people and lost income in private lessons.

Aren't their toilets in the Pre-K rooms? just like in K. Then mother needs to take responsibility for lack of clothes, or sending sick child to school.

We all have accidents my kids still mock me out for having to pull over on the side of the interstate. I tell them would you rather have had perfect strangers see my butt or have the smell for the ride for hundreds of miles from middle GA.

I am so sick of the local news stations with their slighted stories. It is called personal responsibility. Don't brake the law and don't disrespect and resist arrest.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Those additional complaints might have also contained: 


5. My child was flunked for not completing the assignment on time or for not following instructions.


My response is that they will take those same inattentive habits to college with them and fail there, unless the bad habits are nipped while budding in K-12.



AnotherMom
AnotherMom

I felt bad for the little boy, but why did his mother allow her child's picture to be shown in the AJC and on the TV news if he was so traumatized?  Shame on her for allowing his face to be shown (and shame on you AJC for posting it online). That seems like it would be way more humiliating than what happened in school.

KKSCHOOLCRAFT
KKSCHOOLCRAFT

I hate to see any child put in a situation where they will be teased or bullied. That's not right or fair to them, but I don't feel this is the school's fault. Why did the mother not make sure her son had extra cloths. My youngest is 6 and I still make sure he has an extra pair just in case there is an accident or miss-hap at school.

Comments for the other comments:

If you child forgets a pen once or twice ok, but if this is a constant issue than the problem isn't with the teacher but your child. Their in high school, not kindergarten. They should be accountable for their own supplies.

Again, if it was important enough to her she wouldn't have forgotten. Going a day without lunch isn't going to kill her, but next field trip I bet her lunch money will be the first thing she remembers.

It's not the school problem to worry about your child's personal property. I would be offend if my child had to be search because your child was careless! That word accountability comes to mind again. Next question is why would you let a child have a smartphone without some type of GPS on it or some type of app for location in case of theft? We have one on my 10 year's phone that we can not only locate it via GPS, but if the person has it on we can remotely activate the camera and take a picture of the person using it.


Yes I have two boys (10 & 6). I do for them as any parent would, but I don't baby them. Remind them once or twice and if they forget then it wasn't that important to them. 

My 6 year old has spend a few times sitting in a class by himself with just a teacher because he failed to give us the form to fill out for a field trip or when he was given money he didn't turn it in on time. He missed a field trip he really wanted to go on. He was very upset and it hurt me to see him this way, but instead of getting mad at the school for his lack of actions, I talked to him and explained why he wasn't allowed to go. 

He knows now when he get a field trip form in is folder to make sure we see it and it gets turned in.Yes, he is six years old, but I feel he still needs to understand the choices he makes have consequences sometimes not so good.

Children of all ages need to experience failure and disappointment in order to learn success.


KKSCHOOLCRAFT
KKSCHOOLCRAFT

I hate to see any child put in a situation where they will be teased or bullied. That's not right or fair to them, but I don't feel this is the school's fault. Why did the mother not make sure her son had extra cloths. My youngest is 6 and I still make sure he has an extra pair just in case there is an accident or miss-hap at school.

Comments for the other comments:

If you child forgets a pen once or twice ok, but if this is a constant issue than the problem isn't with the teacher but your child. Their in high school, not kindergarten. They should be accountable for their own supplies.

Again, if it was important enough to her she wouldn't have forgotten. Going a day without lunch isn't going to kill her, but next field trip I bet her lunch money will be the first thing she remembers.

It's not the school problem to worry about your child's personal property. I would be offend if my child had to be search because your child was careless! That word accountability comes to mind again. Next question is why would you let a child have a smartphone without some type of GPS on it or some type of app for location in case of theft? We have one on my 10 year's phone that we can not only locate it via GPS, but if the person has it on we can remotely activate the camera and take a picture of the person using it.


Yes I have two boys (10 & 6). I do for them as any parent would, but I don't baby them. Remind them once or twice and if they forget then it wasn't that important to them. 

My 6 year old has spend a few times sitting in a class by himself with just a teacher because he failed to give us the form to fill out for a field trip or when he was given money he didn't turn it in on time. He missed a field trip he really wanted to go on. He was very upset and it hurt me to see him this way, but instead of getting mad at the school for his lack of actions, I talked to him and explained why he wasn't allowed to go. 

He knows now when he get a field trip form in is folder to make sure we see it and it gets turned in.Yes, he is six years old, but I feel he still needs to understand the choices he makes have consequences sometimes not so good.

Children of all ages need to experience failure and disappointment in order to learn success.


teachermom4
teachermom4

I feel for the child, but my child is in kindergarten now and I pack extra clothes for him. In his backpack is a gallon Ziploc bag with his change of clothes. In August, it started off as shorts, undies, socks, and a t-shirt. When it got cold, I changed out the shorts for pants and the t-shirt for long sleeves. I have no expectation that the school should have a ready supply of those things; that's my job. 


I get that maybe putting this child on the bus wasn't the best option, but what if his parents couldn't be reached? That happens. A lot. It's a tough situation to be in, for everyone. I'm not sure that vilifying the school and the teachers is going to help rectify what happened. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

My response: Pre-k and usually K request a set of backup clothes. Mom probably had not provided them.  Teachers usually DO keep spare clothes, but when kids take them home never to return them, after awhile you quit supplying the backups.  Buses, even to daycare, do not wait for you to find alternative clothes.  If they had kept him at the school to look for clothes, Mom would have been angry that he did not get on the after school bus and she had to come get him.


As to the other situations, those are quite common.  Many parents get mad at having to have their kids at school on time, dressed for the weather, having adequate sleep (what business is that of the school's?  No one tells me how to raise my child! etc, etc)  Forget about preparation for class in terms of supplies!  One reason why teachers laughed at the Funny Sonny Money was because it is a pittance of what teachers commonly spend, and are NEVER reimbursed.


I have seen teachers pay for field trips, field trip shirts, poster board and markers, and even had a teacher offer to pay for a child's immunizations so they would not have to stay out of school when the child's "caretakers" said they could not get them!


None of this shows up on the Class Keys or other types of teacher evaluations, however.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I had a really cool 5th grader one year who proposed to me that he would sponsor a "pencil bank."  In it went any extras anyone had, or found in the hallway, or out on the playground, and if you "joined" the bank you could get a pencil if you did not have one.  It was all self-monitored, and everyone participated.  I have thought often of that boy, and I bet he has gone on to some great work as an adult!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

To "join" the bank all you had to do was donate one pencil, and the rest of the year if you were without one, you were covered. And, remarkably, no one seemed to abuse the system!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CharterStarter_Too Wish I could claim it as mine.  After I shared it I did see other teachers adopt it, but this worked so well because the boy was in charge--no power struggle, no extra attention given.  And the class really "got into" finding pencils all over the school and picking them up!  Like I said, I have lost track of the boy, but I am pretty sure he has a bright future as an entrepreneur or social activist.

gapeach101
gapeach101

As for the other examples concerning pens, pencils, money and smart phones--WHEN  and how do these parents think their children are going to learn responsibility?

If their friends won't loan them pens, pencils or share their lunches, maybe those kids have asked too many times.

gapeach101
gapeach101

In a perfect world the school retains the student, calls the parents who then show up with a fresh set of clothes.  In a perfect world. I hear numerous stories about parents who can not be reached, or can't make it to the school. I also recall that even in kindergarten the teachers wanted an extra set of clothing, because accidents do happen.  If they don't want to do that, I would think the teacher would have a few pairs of pants (bought at a thrift store) on hand.

It's March.  Surely they have something in the lost and found for the child.  Even a longer coat, or another sweatshirt to tie around his back.  It was badly handled.

sgas
sgas

@gapeach101 I am a preschool teacher.  Today one of my students had an accident.  I went to my stash of clothes to find appropriate pants for the child.  These are clothes that I have bought over the years to make sure that no child has to wear clothes that are too tight, or are inappropriate for the weather, or that are obviously unclean.  As fate would have it, I could not find any pants today that would fit the child.  Am I irresponsible for having had backup clothing for children for seven years and on one day not having something available?   I ask parents each year to send in extra clothing with their children.  Unfortunately, there is always that one child who has an accident, has their clothes sent home, and never returns with any more extra clothing.  Or, the child who brings in shorts in August and nothing appropriate for days like today.  Fortunately, we were able to scramble today and find pants for the child.   I, too, work in an elementary school.  Typically, lost and found in an elementary school does not have clothing for a child who wears a 3T or 4T.   

I wonder how angry this child's mom would have been if he had not been put on the bus to daycare and the school had called her, asked her to disrupt her day, and come and be responsible for her child?  I don't know the teacher involved.  But, it saddens me that the teacher is being vilified.  Teachers and schools have limited resources - they cannot reasonably be expected to fix things that a parent has neglected to do.

DrKnow2U
DrKnow2U

The situations and parent expectations at all grade levels are, sadly, nothing new. Over the, nearly, past 20 years I have witnessed all of those same scenarios and then some, at all grade levels. I have had students tell me that their parents informed them that they didn't have to do the work unless I provided them with all of the materials that they needed, that it was in fact part of my job as a teacher to provide them with paper and pencils/pens that they could then keep. I have also been told by students, especially on fieldtrips things like, "Well, aren't you going to buy me that xyz, or buy me that drink?" The problems with cellphones escalated over the years and often led to incidents of classroom violence. There were days when I would also have dozens of articles of clothing left in my room. Overtime, after several weeks of remaining unclaimed, I would take the clothes home and wash them and then take them back to school, where I maintained a cache of clothes at the ready to keep needy children either warm or dry. I also kept a variety of healthy snacks available for students who didn't have lunch money but refused to eat the free lunches. Some years, I would spend well over $1,500 in these efforts. NOT once did a parent, community member, the PTA, or school system offer to supplement or reimburse me for these efforts beyond the occasional pack of pencils or paper. All of this on top of having to buy cleaning supplies like a broom, dust pan, and windex and all forms of expendables like flour, baking soda, salt, and other items for classroom projects/experiments. I was directly admonished for asking children to assist in keeping the classroom neat/clean and for asking students to contribute to class collections of supplies for collective use. One year, in APS, my classroom was literally robbed of materials that were locked in a supply cabinet while I was across the hall in another teacher's classroom after school. The students were caught on video and clearly identified, in the act walking out of my room with the items. I received NO restitution and the items were not recovered. Collectively the items were worth well over $1,000 and I had receipts for all of them. I taught science and the items included things like a small digital camera, a document camera, and other equipment along with the contents of a large box of "Smarties" candies that I used as a special reward/incentive for scoring in a particular point range on specialty quizzes. Even with irrefutable evidence, receipts, and a thorough accounting of the inventory of the items, the school refused to press charges.

So, no - none of what you noted surprises me in the least. The only surprise is that this is the first time that you would see this as an emerging pattern. Finally, since I have taught at every grade level in a variety of contents in general ed, gifted, and ESOL settings and in more than one school system, I should point out that I saw no variation in these occurrences among the settings or school systems. My conclusion is that the only person who is ever held accountable is the teacher and regardless of the teachers' action, the teacher is always at fault, goof, bad, or indifferent.

HollyJones
HollyJones

I am not saying the school was right in putting the child on the bus without his pants, However, if it was dismissal time, there isn't a lot of time for a clothing scavenger hunt.  Timing is everything, especially in school where buses have to keep to a schedule. If i were running a school that had a pre-K program, I'd keep extra clothes in the front office, which might have helped in this scenario.  But that's easy for me to say- I am not in charge and I don't know how the school  is run.  

My question is, why is a 4 year old in an elementary school?  I understand that counties have a pre-K program in their elementary schools, but I'm not totally sure that's appropriate, particularly given this story.  Children in pre-K are still prone to potty accidents- my kids' preschools (through pre-K) asked that extra clothes be sent even if your child was fully trained because you just never knew what might happen.  Elementary schools might not be the best place for these very young children. (Personally, I think kindergarteners are too young as well, but that's a discussion for another day). I understand that housing pre-K in an elementary school is helpful, but it may need to be revisited, or at least run more like a preschool, and less like an elementary school.


As to Maureen's final examples: First we complain about kids being coddled, then we complain when schools don't coddle them.  Which is it?  

**The high schooler with no pencils- no excuse. I'd dock the points, too.  A high school kid can't keep a bunch of pens or pencils in his/her backpack?  Come on. 

**The field trip lunch issue- seems a little heartless on the teacher's part, but it can become a slippery slope, I suppose.  I assume this is again a high school FT, since my kids' elementary and MS field trips provided sack lunches; there was no buying lunch out.  If we're discussing a high schooler, I'm a little less sympathetic.  I know we all forget things, but sometimes life lessons are hard, and better learned the harder they are.  


**The phone- I think the school's position is "Bring at your own risk."  Again, a hard lesson and I can totally see myself forgetting my phone like that, but how much can we hold the school accountable for?  


I know all that sounds really harsh, but if parents (or schools) keep rescuing kids every time they forget something, what motivation does the child have to ever remember anything?  


Man, I sound so much like my dad.  "That" day has arrived.  <sigh>