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Team 10: Mother says district lost her autistic son

Posted: 6:55 AM, Aug 05, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-05 15:01:07Z
SAN DIEGO -- A mother claims the San Diego Unified School District lost her autistic son last week for a period of nearly one hour.
 
Julie Ann Penaskovic says she put her 4-year-old son Burt on the bus to summer school on a morning in late July. After school, the bus was scheduled to drop Burt back at home. However, Penaskovic says the bus never arrived that afternoon. 
 
"He's supposed to be dropped off at 12:30 p.m., and at 12:30 pm, there was no bus," Penaskovic said.
 
Penaskovic said the minutes passed by, but the bus never showed.
 
"At this point, I'm frantic. This is like 30 minutes."
 
Penaskovic says she called the school looking for answers, but no one picked up. She tells Team 10, she then drove to the school to try and find Burt, but he wasn't there either.
 
"All the things that went through my head, and not even knowing remotely where he is," she said.
 
Penaskovic says staff at the school eventually got in touch with the district's transportation department. She was told Burt was on a bus, just the wrong one.
 
"What happened is they didn't do the protocol. When she (the driver on the wrong bus) dropped off the 28th student, she said, ‘wait a minute that's the 28th student, who's this child?’"
 
Penaskovic says people at the school told her protocols weren't followed and that only 28 kids were supposed to be on that other bus, but somehow 29 made it on.
 
"He's listed as being 'assisted-only,' so someone has to put him on a bus and someone has to take him off a bus," she said. 
 
Penaskovic says Burt was eventually dropped off at home.
 
While thankful for his safety, she says so far no one at San Diego Unified is offering an explanation on why there was a breakdown in protocol.
 
"They have not explained to me what they are doing to make the changes, so I have zero confidence whatsoever that this will not happen again," she said.
 
San Diego Unified tells Team 10 they are looking into the incident. Due to summer vacation, many staff members were unavailable.
 
The district says there are systems in place to protect its children and prevent similar incidents from occurring.