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Child Confronted Near Bus Has Parents Concerned

Lower Moreland School District sent a letter out to parents explaining a situation in which a young child was approached by an older man after he was dropped off after school.

Lower Moreland School District posted an Important Parent Notification Letter last Friday to inform parents of an incident involving a student at Pine Road Elementary School. 

The letter stated that a child was approached by an older man in the driveway of her home after he was dropped off by the school bus in Justa Farms. The incident took place around 12:30 p.m. after a half-day at school. The bus driver saw the child step away from the man and decided to take action. The bus driver exited the bus and confronted the male who was described between 50 to 60 years old, black and gray hair and driving a dark, possibly, black sedan.

The man said he knew the child, but the child told the bus driver she did not know who the man was. The bus driver then took the child back on the bus and returned her to Pine Road Elementary School.

Police are still actively investigating the incident that occurred on Jan. 31. According to the letter police are trying to determine if the man was a "Good Samaritan." The child was reportedly safe and out of danger, but an incident like this strikes a nerve with all parents in Lower Moreland. 

Maureen McGinley lives on the street where the incident occurred and has two daughters who attend Pine Road, one in first grade and one in fourth.

"I was shocked to read the school district's letter and learn that the incident was so close to home," McGinley said. "My husband and I chose to raise our children in Lower Moreland for the school district and quiet suburban neighborhood. It's sad that we need to have these difficult conversations with our children to keep them safe."

The School District posted a note on Pine Road section of its web site labeled "Important Parent Notification Letter," but the Lower Moreland Police Department has posted very similar incidents dating back to December that occured in two different locations other than Justa Farms.

From the Lower Moreland Police Department:

12/12/12 Suspicious person
Incident occurred at 0810 hrs on Grasshopper Road.  A juvenile was waiting for the school bus and observed a man drive up near him and park on the street.  The male seemed to be staring at him and did this for about 3 minutes before driving away.  Description of the male is 50-60 years of age with salt and pepper hair.  The vehicle involved was a gray mini van with an Eagles plate on the front.  Another incident occurred on Elbow Lane and it was reported that the same vehicle stopped and the man was taking pictures.  Please report any suspicious activity of this type immediately to the police.

"I believe our community needs to have all of the information available so we can all keep our children safe," McGinley said. "I would have preferred to have all of the information available, including the police report information relative to additional incidents in our community back in December. I'm not sure if the school district administration had these details.  I hope they would have shared the information if they knew about it."

The School District stated they are urging parents to have conversations with their children about talking to strangers and the dangers involved, but parents like McGinley still are nervous after an incident like this. 

"I am definitely more nervous having my children take the bus to school," said McGinley. "I worry what will happen if I am not at the bus stop when they arrive each day and have made back-up plans just to be sure they stay safe. The girls know what they need to do if mommy or daddy aren't there to meet them. It's sad that we need to have these conversations with children who are so young.  It's hard to know where to draw the line when having the discussion so they are safe and know how to handle themselves, yet are not scared to go to school every day."

Below is the letter posted to the Lower Moreland School District web site:

Today I was contacted by the Lower Moreland Police Department about an incident that occurred on January 31, 2013, which was an early dismissal day for students at Pine Road School. The police have been investigating this incident since they were contacted about it on Monday, February 4. They called me to share the results of their ongoing investigation.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., a Kindergarten student was being dropped off by her bus at her stop in Justa Farms (Sipler Lane and Gantt Drive). The bus driver observed the student go to her house and wait at the front door and then look in the driveway to see if cars were parked there. The bus driver then observed a male approach the student. The male was approximately age 50-60 with black and gray hair and driving a dark, possibly, black sedan. This male spoke to the student who stepped back from him. Observing this, the bus driver approached the male who said that he was a neighbor who could watch the child. The child stated that she did not know him. The bus driver took the student back on the bus to return her to school.

The Lower Moreland Township Police Department was informed of this incident by the student’s parents. The police have canvassed the neighborhood in order to determine if the person was, indeed, a “good Samaritan,” who was trying to be helpful. They have not as yet been able to locate the person in question, but they are actively continuing their investigation.

They have asked that, if you recognize the description of such a person who may live in the Justa Farms community, you call the Lower Moreland Police Department at 215-947-3132.

I would also ask that you speak with your children about what to do if they are
approached by a stranger. Our school counselors are excellent resources whom I would encourage you to contact if you need information on safety awareness for children. Thankfully this student is safe and we will continue to work with the school community and the Lower Moreland Township Police Department to ensure that all of our students remain so.

Sincerely,
Marykay Feeley, Ed.D.

Amie February 14, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Thanks to this observant, concerned and quick-thinking bus driver!! Thanks to all of the unsung heroes who care for and watch over our children each day!
Irene Schwemlein February 14, 2013 at 03:49 PM
If this hero bus driver hadn't been so observant, we' be putting up ribbons, posters and praying. He deserves a commendation!
LM February 15, 2013 at 03:10 PM
A kindergarten student dropped off & no parent waiting??? Maybe it was a concerned neighbor!
Liberty 1 February 15, 2013 at 05:43 PM
As a driver for the company that operates in LM and have driven LM students for years I would like to second Amie,Irene and LM. Early dismissals are a nightmare for the drivers with Pine Road School. Most parents are there to greet their children but there are many who do not show up at this critical time. The drivers that are carrying 30 to 50 children are in an even tougher spot. It is very easy to drop a child without a parent around and should anything happen the driver is held accountable but that is nothing to the guilt that would be felt. Knowing the drivers in that yard as long as I have there is not one that I wouldn't trust with my own child but between the company management and some parents, drivers are in the position of second guessing themselves constantly. I am thrilled that a driver took a pro-active stance that probably saved a family grief. It took courage because it was an action that the company would frown upon as they would prefer us to use an unreliable radio system to report it and the company attitude is that we can not think and act for ourselves.
Vlad V February 16, 2013 at 01:47 AM
I'm very happy the child is safe. If not for the bus driver calling the school to reach me and wife, I'm not sure what my kids would have done when my wife and I crossed channels and we thought the other was meeting them. We need a policy not to leave any child without a parent or authorized person at the stop. The child stays on the bus or goes back to school until parent is reached. I will not except even one child lost at the bus stop. Who will join me to help pass this policy?
lm'er February 16, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Typical lm school district don't tell the parents anything. Thank God for the underpaid bus driver had the presence of mind to do something because the overpaid superintendent did not think it was important to share with the parents about prior incidents.
Mark Kay February 17, 2013 at 04:54 AM
I agree with you that the driver should be commended. HOWEVER, why didn't the driver call the school from his bus right away or call 911. Why did he wait until he got back to the school.
Mark Kay February 17, 2013 at 04:57 AM
You are correct. Typical LM school district. They are afraid to reveal other incidents similar to this. It might affect future house sales. Stupid thinking. It's been like this for 40+ years. DON'T TELL THE TAXPAYERS ANYTHING!
Mark Kay February 17, 2013 at 05:04 AM
Why didn't the school notify the police immediately when the bus returned to the school rather than first notifying the parents. The School Board should be asked this question at the next board meeting. Also all bus drivers should be issued cell phones in case of emergencies during their bus runs, similar to what just happened. The School Board has always given the taxpayers lip service, but doesn't address the problems directly. All parents of school children should attend the next meeting. The bus driver is a hero and should be commended.
Liberty 1 February 17, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Several years ago all the drivers had cell phones but after the cost started to come in the district discontinued the phone use. First Student installed two way radios that are unreliable at best. The drivers were told that a "personality clash" between the School District and the Township hinders improving reception etc. There does seem to be a big disconnect between the two and it seems to fall on the School Districts inflexability and unwillingness to compromise.
Liberty 1 February 17, 2013 at 06:22 PM
I believe that is already a policy Vlad. The problem arises with buses that are crowded and the driver having to keep track of all the kids that are dropped off at the stops. It can get hectic with loud and excited children on a bus. This driver did a great job that day, but it could have very easily gone the other way.

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