A Toronto father is furious after his three-year-old son was dropped off at the wrong bus stop after school Wednesday afternoon and ended up in the care of a stranger.
Carlos Oberoi said he got a call from Gateway Public School in North York to inform him another adult had found his son at a stop 10 minutes away from his proper stop. He tears up thinking what could have been.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Oberoi said. “I’m a tough guy and that’s not a good feeling.”
Wednesday was the first time Zaiden — a junior kindergarten student — was able to take an afternoon bus home due to an ongoing driver shortage at Sharp Bus Lines.
“He was telling the lady, ‘I’m at the wrong building. I’m at the wrong building,’” Oberoi said. “He was crying. He knew he was at the wrong place.”
Julie Moollbhai was the woman who came to Zaiden’s rescue.
“This boy come up by himself,” she said. “He hugged me and said, ‘Oh, I lost my mummy.'”
Sharp Bus Lines, one of three GTA bus companies experiencing driver shortages, said it’s investigating the incident.
“In relation to dropping off young students, Sharp Bus Lines adheres to the policy and procedures laid out by the local transportation consortium,” GTA regional manager Nick Williamson said.
“We are in the process of reviewing our internal procedures to ensure that all Toronto Student Transportation Group processes are followed in all cases.”
The Toronto District School Board said it’s also investigating Wednesday’s incident with Sharp Bus Lines.
“This is completely unacceptable,” spokesman Ryan Bird said.
“This should have never happened. The student should not have been left off that bus without knowing the parent or guardian is there to receive him.”
The TDSB employs the Purple Equals Parent program for young students taking the bus. The child wears a bright purple tag on his or her clothing or backpack indicating the child should not be left off the bus without a parent or guardian present.
Oberoi said his son was clearly wearing the tag when he was dropped off some 750 metres away from his designated stop.
“I know where he got dropped off and I’m thinking, ‘Who’s got him?’” Oberoi said. “And he’s only three and a half.”
The TDSB did not know when all busing routes would be fully staffed, but Sharp’s Williamson said the company has been hiring.
“We have made significant progress in filling our staffing requirements and anticipate a full complement of drivers in the very near future,” he said.