Educators escape jail time over child left on bus last year
Two early childhood educators faced Rockhampton District Court last week on charges relating to a May 2022 incident where a three-year-old girl sustained critical injuries when she was left on a bus transporting her to a long day care service.
Both of the educators, aged in their thirties, pled guilty to one count each of grievous bodily harm, and were given suspended sentences, with the Judge saying the incident was “a nightmare situation for any parent”, and that the girl survived thanks to the “grace of God, the centre’s owner and the medical [professionals]”.
The child at the centre of the incident has since made a full recovery, and was present in the courtroom with her family as the sentencing took place.
In early May 2022, the child was collected from her home in the morning and driven to the service, arriving shortly after 9am. The prosecution alleged that the educators then “conducted no checks” before going into the centre, leaving the child on the bus and signing her in for the day.
Another staff member drove the bus to a local school in the afternoon, around 2:45 pm, and when they went to lock the bus remotely, they were unable to. At this time, the educator went to the door of the bus to ensure it was closed properly, discovering the child at the centre of the incident “slouched and pale” in the back of the bus.
The educator then called the owner of the service, a registered nurse, who instructed the educator to drive back to the centre, as it would have taken too long to go to the hospital in Rockhampton, and it was understood the ambulance station in the town where the incident occurred was often not staffed.
This, the prosecution said, was an instruction which likely saved the child’s life, given the temperature inside the bus at 4pm was around 41 degrees.
When the educator and the child returned to the service, the owner took the child inside, started emergency first aid, and tried to cool the child down while they waited for the ambulance to arrive, which happened at around 3pm, transferring the child to Rockhampton hospital within 30 minutes.
The child was diagnosed with heat stroke which had caused seizures and kidney damage from dehydration, spending four days in Queensland Hospital before being discharged.
While the child has shown no lingering physical effects from the incident, there are some other issues and concerns with the child, who is said to now be hypervigilant, and concerned about being left behind.
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