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Easy to feel for 4-year-old put on school bus in underpants but is school the problem?

The story of the 4-year-old put on his school bus by a Fulton County elementary school in his skivvies because of a bathroom mishap is getting a lot of attention.

My question: Is the outrage over this incident -- which led the teacher to resign Friday -- symptomatic of our expectation now that schools cover all the bases including having replacement clothes at the ready?

While someone in the school attempted to find clothing for the child, a teacher wrapped a sweatshirt around his waist to conceal his underwear. Somehow, he was put on the bus to his aftercare program before an outfit was found, according to the principal. Apparently, the daycare center also did not have extra clothing on hand since the director called the mom to come collect the little boy.

Mother Janet Burgo said the Fulton school didn't call her, but was it too late in the day given the child had to board a bus for his aftercare program?

Burgo wants the school to punish other teachers who might have seen her child in his underwear, telling Channel 2 Action News, "How do you walk by a school full of teachers and get on a bus in your underwear in 40 degree weather?"

According to the AJC:

A Fulton County mom is furious after her preschooler arrived to aftercare in his underwear, according to Channel 2 Action News. A daycare director called Janet Burgo to tell her she needed to pick her 4-year-old son up Friday afternoon because he arrived on the bus from Feldwood Elementary School underdressed.

“They put him half naked, in my opinion, on the bus in the cold,” Burgo told Channel 2. “It’s unacceptable to put my child on a bus in his underwear in 40-degree weather.”

“J WAS TRAUMATIZED! He was so upset, embarrassed, and hurt! It broke my heart to see my son mistreated that way and so distressed. He looked so sad and miserable when he saw me and seemed to finally let go of his resolve and broke down and started to cry then started vomiting!”

Clearly, it's hard not to feel sympathy for the little boy, but is there another side to consider? A frequent theme in some of the complaints I hear from parents is that schools fail to step in and function as surrogate parents.

Among reader complaints I've received over the last nine months:

  1. My high school student forgets his pens and pencils a lot and teachers are tired of it and not providing them to him any longer, He is being docked points for not being able to complete the class work.
  2. My child left her wallet at home and didn't have money to buy lunch on a field trip, and her teachers did not lend her money for lunch. She had to beg some cookies off a friend.
  3. My child left her smartphone charging in the back of a classroom and forgot it. When she returned it was gone, and the school refused to search all the kids in the classroom to see if any of them had the phone.

What do you think?

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.