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Family outraged after Knoxville student left asleep on school van; prompts new policy

Debra Bragg says her 11-year-old grandson stayed after school for a program and on the ride home, he fell asleep. He eventually woke up at the bus barn startled.

KNOXVILLE, Ill. — A Knox County grandmother says her grandchild was left on a school van for a long period of time after normal routes were complete.

Debra Bragg said her 11-year-old grandson stayed after school for a program on Jan. 26, and on the ride home, he fell asleep.

"I cried when I found out," Bragg said. "I yelled."

Once the driver returned to the bus yard around 5:15 p.m., he was left on the van.

"I was very, very upset," Bragg said.

He eventually woke up looking for help. The child knocked on the door of the bus office and eventually someone answered that evening.

"All she had to do was look in the back of her van to make sure there wasn't a sleeping child," Bragg said. "Not a whole school bus. She only had to do her job."

The child eventually got home safely after making contact with the district worker, but the grandmother says he was sleep in the van for roughly two hours.

"That's not accurate," Knoxville School District superintendent Geoff Schoonover said. "That didn't happen."

Schoonover said the child was in the van by himself, but only around 20 minutes.

"No amount of time is good, but it's a lot different than 20 minutes," Schoonover said.

Schoonover said the driver thought all students were dropped off.

"One of the students had got off and she had asked, 'Are you the last one,' and she had said 'yes,'" Schoonover said.

The superintendent said the employee didn't see any student still onboard, but he says that is because the child was not visible sleeping in the vehicle's rear-view mirror.

"We are apologetic that this happened," Schoonover said.

Schoonover said it is protocol to do a walk-through of the buses, but not for the vans. He said after this incident, a new policy will be implemented.

"For our vans, we necessarily didn't have that because we don't walk down the aisle, but what we're going to do is update that to include our vans," Schoonover said.

The grandmother said she wants the driver fired and arrested. Bragg said she is glad her grandson is not younger or a disabled child. 

"She needs to be arrested just like you or I," Bragg said. "If he hadn't woken up when he did, I'd hate to think what could've happened. Things could have turned out a lot worse."

The superintendent said the driver will not be fired but disciplinary action will be taken.

Police are conducting an investigation.

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