BOZEMAN, Mont. – On Monday night, Bozeman Police and Gallatin County Search and Rescue spent hours looking for an 8-year-old girl who was last seen on the school bus.
“For a lot of parents, I am sure everyone is almost terrified to be putting their kids on the bus,” said concerned parent Annika Pike.
Pike has a 5-year-old daughter who takes the bus home from Whittier Elementary. Pike said there has only been a handful of times since the beginning of 2019 that her daughter made it home from school on time.
“As her mom, it is terrifying knowing that she could be getting off somewhere and someone else could pick her up,” said Pike. “As a mom, I almost always automatically feel like the worse thing.”
Pike’s daughter isn’t the only child who this has happened to. Monday night, Bozeman Police were looking at the Bozeman High Shcool transfer station for a girl who didn’t make it home from school. The child was later found at a friend’s house, but Sergeant Hal Richardson said it could have been worse.
“So it is something that we deal with on a frequent enough basis,” said Richardson. “The faster we can get the call, we can bring the resolution to it.”
Richardson said the call came in around 5 p.m. but Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said his office wasn’t notified until hours 3 later.
“Those of us who have been in law enforcement know that the sooner and the more manpower you can get on that, the better,” said Gootkin. “So we are going to work on that and visit with the police department to make sure that we get activated a little bit earlier.”
The girl was found safe and according to Bozeman School District, there are procedures in place.
“We have got a great relationship and procedures with our bus contractors, with the police department and frankly with the parents in town,” said Bozeman School District Business Services Director Mike Waterman. “We can obviously learn all the time from these instances, and we do that, but at the same time we feel like we have a pretty good protocol in place.”
MTN reached out to First Student, the bus contractor for the school district, who has not responded.