Parent “appalled” that Rockwall ISD bused children home during storm

ROCKWALL – Letter To The Editor (a copy of the letter sent yesterday by a Rockwall parent to Rockwall ISD Superintendent Jeff Bailey):

Dear Mr. Bailey,

I am appalled that RISD sent elementary-aged children home on school buses during yesterday’s severe weather outbreak. My ten-year-old twins were placed on a school bus shortly before a tornado touched down in Forney that was headed toward Rockwall. According to my daughters, the tornado sirens began sounding while they were on the bus.  The school bus driver dropped them off at their bus stop and said, “run as fast as you can to your house.”

Every day I put my faith in RISD that the safety of my children is its top priority. Yesterday, as I watched the weather events unfold from my office in Dallas, every maternal instinct told me to go home and protect my children. But there was a line of tornadic storms blocking my route.  And so I took solace in knowing that my daughters’ schools were among the safest buildings during a severe storm, and that the leadership and staff at RISD had the training and competence to keep my children safe.

Apparently my trust was misplaced.  RISD made a gross misstep by putting children on school busses during yesterday’s extreme weather. We were fortunate not to be more seriously affected by the storms.  My family was fortunate to have a trusted nanny at home who knew to keep an eye on the weather and the safest place in my home to survive a tornado.  But how many children did you send home to empty houses?  How many elementary-aged children would know to come home and turn on the news and where to hide in their houses?

The “what-ifs” are unbearable to contemplate.  While I watched news footage of tractor-trailors being hurled through the air, my children were placed on a school bus. While I watched in horror as tornados moved toward Rockwall, my children were loaded on a bus, dropped off, and essentially told to “run for it.”

RISD created a possibly deadly scenario yesterday when it released children while there were still severe storms in the area that were tracking toward Rockwall.  This cannot happen again. Immediate measures must be taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

I request that you forward me RISD’s policies regarding student safety and dismissal during severe weather. If appropriate policies are not already in place, new policies must be created immediately. If appropriate policies were already in place, then steps must be taken to ensure that they are followed and that all leadership and staff  is appropriately trained to implement those policies.

My understanding is that DISD did not send any children home on school buses yesterday.  This was certainly the most prudent action to ensure that the children were safe and no children were home alone during severe weather. I cannot understand why RISD did not exhibit the same good sense.

I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding RISD’s severe weather policies and the steps that RISD is taking to ensure  that this does not happen again.

Best regards

Misty Hubbard Gutierrez
Attorney at Law
Thomas, Feldman & Wilshusen L.L.P.





12 Responses to Parent “appalled” that Rockwall ISD bused children home during storm

  1. The school district took great care for the safety of our children. I drive a school bus here and also have children in this district. Until you have personally driven a school bus in this situation you can not judge us all. Mistakes are made because we are human. I am appalled at the fact that some one in this blog uses their Attorney status as some sort of threat. There are children all over this country who go home alone because parents work or out shopping. We can not possibly control that. I am glad you are fortunate enough to have a ‘nanny’ for your kids, but most of us do not have that luxury. I give great praise to the district and the bus drivers who were put in this situation. Do you even know the name of your child or children’s bus driver? Yes, we do have names. Thanks

    risd bus driver April 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm
  2. I have a different take on the school she is upset with. I was at the school she is speaking of during the lockdown. They were on lockdown beginning around 1:40. An email went out from the District stating Elementary was being released. Many of the schools put their kids on buses after the email went out. Shortly after, another email went out saying a new warning was issued and they were back on lockdown. Buses begin unloading and buses from other schools started showing up. Some from Springer and Shannon. At least one daycare showed up after picking up from Springer. One bus driver from the school she is upset with did not follow directions and continued to drop kids off.

    The District has policies put in place from what I could tell. They depend on all their employees to follow those guidelines. Obviously, one bus driver did not. I would be willing to bet the bus driver who did not follow procedures is being disciplined, according to their guidelines.

    I have had children in this District for 9 years. They have never had a lockdown in those 9 years. Are there things they could improve on? Absolutely. People learn from experience. I was very impressed with the school and the District in the way they handled the situation and I know they are safe and in good hands every single day. I feel certain lessons were learned and there won’t be even one bus driver make the same mistake again.

    happy parent April 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm
  3. Long time Rockwall citizen, Wow!
    I understand defending RISD, The facts will come out. But let’s say the aboved letter is correct. Regardless of the great care & concern other campuses did what if one campus did not take the same care. Is it ok to have a tiny little mistake? By the grace of God there were no causalities, it would be a different post..

    Rockwall citizen April 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm
  4. I’m a hays and utley parent and those schools were on lockdown until the storms passed. I think RISD handled the situation great.

    Kim April 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm
  5. My daughter was in lock down at Celia Hays, as well. Wonder what school this was that had the misfortune of boarding a teensy bit early. I am sure that RISD would not have let the children board had they any idea an intense storm was coming.

    Marie April 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm
  6. I am shocked by this editorial. My student was in lockdown until about 5PM at Celia Hays. At one point during the storms Tuesday, when the initial tornado warning expired at 3:15 students were lining up to dismiss. However, a new warning was issued at 3:17 and the students were ushered back into the hallways into ‘duck and cover’ position.

    I received multiple text and emails from RISD informing me of the situation at hand. I heard from several parents inside the school as well, who went to pick up their children and were instead placed in lockdown with them.

    Which is why I have a difficult time believing this account of Tuesdays events. My student wasn’t released from school until 4:47 and did not arrive home until 5:30. This was at the direction of RISD administrators.

    Mrs. Schmidt the AP at Hays did a fantastic job (as well as the faculty and staff) of keeping everyone calm, safe and moving about in an orderly fashion. I cannot thank the teachers, staff, administrators at Celia Hays enough for keeping all 750 students safe and out of harms way.

    This is how the school system works in an emergency. I can’t imagine one school, one administrator, one bus driver didn’t follow the protocol set out for such a situation.

    Otherwise, where are all the other letters? Where is the outcry? Why isn’t Saul Garza and a news crew standing at the steps of the RISD building demanding answers?

    Celia Hays Parent April 5, 2012 at 8:47 am
  7. Awesome job by RISD. The seriousness of the storms was taken seriously and I was impressed with ensuring accountability and safety of all the students and staff.

    Utley Parent April 5, 2012 at 7:25 am
  8. I am outraged at the fact that RISD didn’t take precautions into their own hands and left these children defenseless in the eye of a storm. Somewhere along the line, there has been a lack of traning when it comes to safety and this school district. I hope there is not going to be a “next time,” but if there is, I can only attain that the school district has learned something from this incident.

    Debbie Anderson April 5, 2012 at 5:36 am
  9. I was actually very impressed with the way that Rockwall ISD handled and communicated as the events unfolded. This incident had to be isolated. My high school kids that ride the bus did not get home until after 5 due to the delays triggered by the elementary busses not running due to being on lockdown.

    RISD parent April 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm
  10. I am sure that was a difficult for any parent being separated from kids during that time, however are the school district and the bus drivers suppose to know which kids are being dropped off to empty houses? Do they know which ones have parents or adults waiting for them and which ones do not?

    I also understand that some parents were upset that they were not allowed to pick up their kids once they went into lock down. So the school district is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is my understanding that there was a a brief window when the sirens were not going off before the next round of activity began and during this window some of the buses got loaded and took off on their route. When the sirens went off it is also my understanding that the schools unloaded buses that had not left yet.

    I am confident the school acted in what was the best interest of the kids and in hind sight it is always easy to second guess. In spite of all the planning and training each incident is unique and provides opportunities to assess and change, and I expect and anticipate RISD will do just that, just as I am confident they acted in what they thought were the best interests of the children.

    Jeff Schmucker April 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm
  11. I am not sure which school made this decision, but at the Rockwall elementary school where I work, Rockwall ISD students were not put on buses until well after the storms had passed. Most of the teachers at my campus stayed at the school well past working hours (until after 6:00) to be sure that every student stayed safe… even when we knew that tornadoes were touching down close to our own homes (and children). I am appalled to hear that this mother’s children were put in harm’s way. But I hope that Rockwall citizen’s will express appreciation for all the time and effort that most RISD employees put into keeping the children of Rockwall safe.

    RISD teacher April 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm
  12. no the didnt because at my school they did not release kids tell436

    colot April 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

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