Charges possible after boy left on bus for three hoursIn another hour, Ty Stiffarm could have frozen to death. That’s what his mother, Brooklynn Wait, said she was told by doctors after she brought her 3-year-old son into the hospital in Cloquet on Monday after he was found alone and screaming on a Fond du Lac Head Start bus with temperatures hovering at 0 degrees.
By: Mike Creger, Pine Journal
In another hour, Ty Stiffarm could have frozen to death. That’s what his mother, Brooklynn Wait, said she was told by doctors after she brought her 3-year-old son into the hospital in Cloquet on Monday after he was found alone and screaming on a Fond du Lac Head Start bus with temperatures hovering at 0 degrees.
Ty was strapped into his seat behind the driver, Wait said, and “there is no excuse” for him to be forgotten on the bus. It is estimated he was alone on the bus for at least three hours. Ty’s mother said he usually gets to Head Start just after 7 a.m. Someone passing by the bus at 11 a.m. heard screaming and called for help, Wait said.
“He said, ‘I was crying and nobody helped me,’” she said.
He was warmed up at the hospital and was released in about three hours, his mother said Monday night. He was a bit more lethargic than his usual self, she said, and his hands and feet were still purple nearly eight hours after he was found.
Criminal charges may be filed against a bus driver and aide who failed to notice he was left on the bus.
Jeremy Ojibwe, Fond du Lac’s director of law enforcement, said Tuesday evening that an officer was finishing a report on the incident and it would go to the Carlton County Attorney’s Office Wednesday morning for consideration of criminal charges. As the Pine Journal went to press Wednesday, no charges had been filed.
That would please Wait, who said some sort of justice should be served.
Wait said she made a statement to police, who also took statements from the bus driver and the aide who was on the bus.
Wait said she will keep Ty and two of her other children out of school indefinitely while she seeks answers as to how her son could have been left on the bus in freezing temperatures.
Ty loves school, his mother said, and that’s part of the heartache she felt a day after he was found on the bus. He now doesn’t want to go to school if it means getting back on the bus, she said.
After a sleepless night contemplating the near-tragedy, she kept all three of her children out of school Tuesday and will continue to do so, she said.
“Not in the near future,” she said when asked when the children would return.
The mother found herself with lingering questions about the ordeal her son went through and wasn’t satisfied with what Fond du Lac band officials offered Tuesday.
“I was supposed to get names and more of an explanation,” she said. “A lot of questions weren’t answered.”
Wait spoke with Chuck Walt, the executive director of tribal programs, who wrote a brief report on Monday’s incident and handed it to Wait on Tuesday. She said the report contained little new information and her conversation with Walt was brief.
Walt told the Duluth News Tribune that new policies are being introduced to “make sure nothing like this happens again.”
One is that teachers will be required to take attendance early in the day to discern any unexcused absences, Walt said. Had that been done Monday, a search for Ty likely would have ensued.
Walt said policies regarding checking buses for students also will be reviewed.
Two transportation employees remain on administrative leave while an internal investigation continues, Walt said.
Ty’s mother said band officials will look at the incident and move on, while she has to try to go on with the thought of almost losing her child.
“I want to do everything I can to get some justice,” Wait said.
She said the two employees involved should never hold such jobs again.
And she would like to see criminal charges, saying that any parent who left a child in a cold car would face immediate reprisal in court. The report she received Tuesday says there was a failure to check the bus for remaining students after they were dropped at the school but has no information on how that could have happened with Ty in the seat directly behind the driver.
“That’s still a mystery,” Wait said. “That’s what makes me so angry.”
Wait said she intends to pursue her legal options and has been speaking with an attorney. She said she is still consulting with family members and plans to reach out to more Fond du Lac officials to get answers.
“It’s not for money,” she said adamantly. “It’s about justice.”
Fond du Lac Chairwoman Karen Diver told the Pine Journal, “Tribal administration is taking it very seriously, but do not have all the facts yet.”