Todd Hougaard, Deseret News
FARMINGTON — A West Valley City mother wants answers after she says her 10-year-old son was left behind on a field trip to Lagoon.
The field trip Saturday was an end-of-year celebration for the safety patrol group from Hillside Elementary School. It was paid for in part by the West Valley City Police Department, with bus service provided by Granite School District.
“It was pretty exciting,” Gustavo Chavez said. “I had never been there before.”
Gustavo admitted he didn't want to go home when it was time to leave, and he asked a chaperone if he and another classmate could stay behind and have a parent come get them. The teacher told him no.
"So I went out to wait for the rest of my schoolmates at the front entrance so we could go to the buses,” he said.
What happened next is up for debate. The 10-year-old said he couldn't find the buses.
"They left us,” he said. “They just abandoned us.”
Granite School District officials declined to comment on the incident because the field trip was not school sponsored. However, permission slips signed by parents of all students who attended clearly state that "buses will not wait for students who are late."
The district said the buses waited for 45 minutes, as chapherones and park security searched for the boys. They also called the parents to tell them what was happening.
“It's the worst nightmare for a parent,” said Rene Chavez, Gustavo’s mother. “You don't know where your son is. You think, ‘What can I do?’ You can't even process that.”
Organizers said they did everything they could to find the boys, but ultimately could no longer keep the other parents waiting. The bus left, and Chavez was told she needed to drive to Lagoon to find her son.
The district says if it had been a school-sponsored event, someone would have been required to stay behind.
Chavez said permission slip or not, she can't believe the buses would leave two 10-year-old boys behind at an amusement park.
The father of the other student left behind feels differently.
“The bottom line is if he was where he was supposed to be, he would have been on the bus,” Preston Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro said he's concerned for the teacher who volunteered to chaperone, and he's worried the backlash may prevent other kids from future field trips.
“This teacher volunteers so much of his time,” he said. “He goes above and beyond.”
Chavez just wants an apology.
“He's 10 years old, so he has some sense of responsibility,” she said. “But he's 10. I wouldn't leave him at home alone, let alone a public place.”
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