“It was the scariest thing that I’ve ever gone through,” Tipton told KXAN. “All I could think about was, he’s 7, so he got off on the wrong stop and I have no idea where he’s at.”
In a panic, Tipton quickly called her son's school to figure out his whereabouts.
Thankfully, her son Gunner Rex, who is in first grade, was at the office of Callison Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas. According to an administrator, a substitute teacher had apparently mixed up her son with another boy and put him on the bus instead of Gunner.
Tipton told KXAN the school referred to the incident as a "minor" mistake.
While relieved that her son was OK, the mom was frustrated by the situation as it is not the first time it has happened. Earlier this year, someone at the elementary school told Tipton's daughter that she would be picked up, so she waited at the office instead of boarding the school bus to go home.
"It’s a serious thing that should have never happened once, let alone twice," Tipton said.
A Round Rock Independent School District spokesperson, who did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment, told KXAN that the district is not able to discuss individual incidents, including what happened to the other student, due to privacy concerns but said added these types of mix-ups do happen.
Tina Fausett, the district’s transportation director, informed the news station that this has "been a security issue for a while."
According to Fausett, there are procedures in place to address these types of mistakes.
“Our process on that is to take them as soon as we can, depends on our route, back to the campus. And they’re safe from the time they get on until they get back to the campus," Fausett said.
Should a student miss the bus, a staff member calls the transportation department who radios the driver, according to KXAN. Typically after finishing a route, the driver will return to the school and pick up the child.
“Meanwhile, the parent is called and informed of the situation,” a district spokesperson told KXAN.
However, Tipton says she never received a call from the school or district.
The district told the news station that it is currently testing out a new program called SMART Tag with a group of students which will prevent issues like this one from happening.
Through SMART Tag, a student will receive a radio-frequency identification (RFID) card to scan on and off their bus. If a student is not supposed to board the bus, or is getting off at the wrong stop, a tablet by the driver will flash red and a warning alarm will sound. The tablet will also show the student's correct route.
Should a student lose their identification card, drivers can manually enter his or her name to check them into the bus. Guardians can also receive notifications on an app, informing them when their child boards and exits the bus.
“By the end of the school year, we’re hoping to have all 54 campuses up and running,” Fausett said.
Tipton told KXAN she is in support of the new program.
“To have that right there to get to know that your child is safe and on the bus is a wonderful system," she said. "I feel like they should have done it a long time ago."
Yahoo Lifestyle was not immediately able to locate Tipton for comment.
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