Video shows special needs teen walking in middle of metro Detroit highway

HUNTINGTON WOODS, Mich. (WXYZ) - A 7 Action News viewer shared video he recorded of a special needs teen walking down the middle of I-696 in Oakland County.

It happened on Tuesday on I-696 near Coolidge Highway. The student apparently escaped out the emergency door of a school bus and walked right down the middle of the busy freeway.

Some people ran after him and video shows the traffic stopped.

The student was on a First Student bus taking him from a center-based program for students with special needs to his home district of Oak Park. He has severe autism.

“When I first received the call, my heart stopped,” said Superintendent of Oak Park Schools, Dr. Daveda Colbert.

Drivers fortunately stopped until help arrived. The young man was checked out at the hospital, but not injured.

Dr. Colbert says she immediately went to work to find out how this happened and how to make sure it never happened again.

“We want everyone to know that this is an absolute- no, not ever again,” said Dr. Colbert.

After looking at video recorded on the bus Dr. Colbert says she found two issues.  The harness that was supposed to restrain him during the ride for his safety was worn. 

“It is not that it wasn’t on properly. It is that he needs a new harness, so clearly a new one was ordered this morning,” said Dr. Colbert.

An investigation is underway as to whether the workers on the bus reacted appropriately or quickly enough.  They are on leave while a final determination is made.

“When a student gets out of a safety measure we must stop the bus  It is game over. It means call in to dispatch. We cannot have a student who is not in safety gear and now anything can happen,” said Dr. Colbert.

The district has told the bus company, First Student, that it needs to provide another driver and monitor, plus an extra support person to sit right next to the student to make sure he is safe.

The district has released the following statement:

An investigation is taking place into an incident that occurred at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.  A student with severe Autism, who attends a center based program in another district, was being transported home by First Student Transportation. The student wears a harness for his safety during travel. We have looked into how the student was able to remove himself from the harness.  The student was able to get out of the harness on his own.  At that time, the transport should have been stopped.  The bus ratio is 1:1. There were two students on the bus, a bus driver and a bus monitor.  One student wears a harness and the other student does not.  This is a terrible situation, one of the most dangerous situations ever, and one that should not have happened, and can not ever happen again. We are thankful that we are able to say that the end result was that the student was not harmed. When the incident happened, 911 was called immediately.  Oak Park Public Safety, and Huntington Woods Public Safety, along with other agencies reported to the scene to assist immediately, as well as drivers passing by were assisting at the time of the incident.  The student was safely transported by ambulance to the hospital for observation and released last night.  We are thankful for the support of the officers that reported to the scene and responded well to the situation.  We are thankful to those driving along 696, who were careful and understanding at the time of the incident.

Our first priority is student safety.  In response to this terrible incident, a new harness has been purchased, as it appears the one that the student was wearing is worn and provides a little room to move around.  The student will have another driver and monitor on his route, as well as, an extra support person whose sole purpose is to sit right next to the student on the bus on the seat across from him, to make sure the student is safely strapped in the harness at all times.  Appropriate discipline will be applied.  First Student is working with us and are in full support of all recommendations from the findings.

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