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Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News
Lory Evans is upset after her son, 7-year-old Max, who has special needs, was dropped off at Creekside Elementary School in Kaysville, where she's a teacher, three hours after the bell rang at his school, Sarah Jane Adams Elementary School in Layton.

LAYTON — The Davis School District is apologizing over an error that led to some children with special needs being returned home hours late on Monday.

For one family, it wasn't the first time something like this had happened to them.

Lory and Lance Evans' son, 7-year-old Max, was supposed to be dropped off at Creekside Elementary in Kaysville, where his mother works. He made it there three hours after the school bell rang at his school, Sarah Jane Adams Elementary in Layton.

Lory Evans, a teacher herself, said she was initially told by Max’s instructor that the bus was running about an hour late.

“That hour went by and still no Max,” she said.

She called the district, and administrators could not reach the bus driver by phone or by radio. “Now I knew they were panicking, so my motherly instincts were correct in that something was not right,” Evans said.

Anxiety steadily built.

“You’re just praying that nobody is hurting your child,” she said. “My heart was starting to race.”

District spokesman Chris Williams said the district’s transportation director ultimately went out in his own car with his secretary and used the district’s GPS tracking system to locate the bus, unload Max and return him to his mother.

“With the state and with the district, you assume everybody’s going to be safe and doing what they’re supposed to do, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Lory Evans said. “When you can’t locate or get your hands on your own child for hours at a time, the thoughts that start going through your mind are heartbreaking.”

Williams said the bus driver and assistant who were involved initially forgot Monday was an “early out day,” and the driver scrambled to pick up the children and take them home.

“The bus driver and his assistant should have known it was an early out day,” Williams said. “It was communicated to them multiple times — to all our bus drivers. Apparently, they forgot about that.”

The ordeal sent a frustrated Lance Evans to the district offices Tuesday to meet with administrators.

“I’m frustrated and I’m heartbroken,” Evans said outside the district offices. “This is my child that this has happened to. But there were five other children, and it’s beyond my comprehension — after what we’ve all witnessed as a community in other school districts this past year — that nobody took notice, that nobody seemed to have learned any lessons. And here we are. It just seems to me like nothing will be done until something bad happens — and one kid is too many.”

Evans said this was the second time something like this had happened to his son. The last time, he said, a substitute bus driver got lost last spring and his son was returned more than three hours late.

Williams said the district is apologizing, taking accountability and disciplining the bus driver.

“We made a mistake twice, and (Max’s father) shouldn’t have to come up to our offices and explain to us how frustrated he is,” Williams said. “We need to ratchet it up, no question about it.”

Williams said the district will place one of its best drivers and best assistants on the bus that transports Max and several other special needs students.

The district, Williams said, also planned to send a memo to all bus drivers, instructing them if they’re late on their route by 15 minutes or more to call into the bus garage and the district will handle the situation.

“I think there are a lot of dots in between that are not connected and not connected well that need to be addressed,” Lory Evans said.

Email: aadams@deseretnews.com