Sioux Falls mom questions SBI's communication after child, 9, dropped off at wrong stop

After her 9-year-old student was dropped off at the wrong stop, one Sioux Falls parent wants School Bus Inc. to employ better communication.

Ariel Sides and her 9-year-old daughter pose for a picture at Falls Park. The family moved to Sioux Falls from California in November 2022.
Contributed / Ariel Sides

SIOUX FALLS — The Sioux Falls School District’s busing contractor is offering sympathy after a 9-year-old student was dropped off at the wrong location this week, prompting a parent complaint.

Ariel Sides waits at her daughter’s bus stop every day after school. But on Tuesday, Jan. 10, she was sent into a panic when the bus began to drive away without her 9-year-old stepping off.

Sides immediately called her daughter’s school. Moving to Sioux Falls from the San Diego area in November, Sides’ daughter hasn’t had much time to familiarize herself with the neighborhood.

Unbeknownst to Sides at the time, her daughter had been dropped off at the next stop a couple of blocks away, and would soon arrive through the assistance of other neighborhood kids.

“Fortunately, some kids in our neighborhood found my daughter and brought her home,” Sides told Forum News Service. “She was lost and cold and terrified. She was crying uncontrollably, just completely traumatized.”


Through a conversation with her daughter and the school, Sides concluded that the bus driver — instead of bringing the child back to her stop — had dropped her child off down the road without contacting her or the school.

The district has contracted with School Bus Inc. (SBI) for the transportation of its students for more than four decades. SBI's website estimates that nearly 7,000 children are transported across more than 350 routes daily.

With thousands of students to keep track of, the Sioux Falls School District (SFSD) and SBI use technology that helps drivers know who is on their bus and informs parents when and where their children have gotten off the bus.

Warren Lanphier, operations manager for SBI, told Forum News Service that from a bus driver’s end, the application shows a student’s name upon entering or exiting the bus, and will display red if a student is getting off at the wrong stop. That system then syncs to the StopFinder app, where parents can see where their child swiped their card.

Sides said that district officials confirmed that the logs from the system demonstrate that the driver should have known her daughter was let off at the wrong location, and was frustrated that it wasn't communicated to her.

“It was just blatant disregard. When I spoke to [district transportation coordinator] Missy Braak, she said ‘I checked it, and it clearly said this is not her stop," Sides said. "There is some kind of major disconnect or breakdown in leadership or communication going on here, and I’m not only frustrated, I’m concerned."

Sides said she was told the driver has since been removed from the route. Lanphier declined to confirm to Forum News Service if that action was taken, citing personnel matters.

He did, however, explain what kinds of procedures are in place for when students miss a stop.


“Generally, if we know that a child has missed their stop, we will take them back to their stop. In some cases, a child will get off at the wrong stop and the driver may not know, especially at a large group stop when the child may get off with a lot of other students,” Lanphier explained. “A lot of times, the kids will get off with their friends and try to go places, this happens quite regularly — they’ll attempt to go to someone else’s house.”

Lanphier said that students in middle and high school are allowed to exit the bus at any stop on the route, but younger students will either have to be returned to the school or brought back to their stop after the route has been completed.

School Bus Inc. transports more than 7,000 Sioux Falls School District students each day. This map shows which elementary school students will attend based on their home residence.
Screenshot / Sioux Falls School District

“We’re not going to make all the other kids late for their stop, so we’ll keep that student on until the bus finishes their route, but we’ll notify [SBI’s] dispatch that this student will be on the bus until the driver finishes that segment of the route and then they’ll bring them back to their stop,” Lanphier said. “Generally, the parent and the student should have gone down to the bus stop and made the child aware of where their stop is at, they’ve gotta become familiar with the area and done a little bit of due diligence, especially at this point in the school year.”

Lanphier added that SBI’s dispatchers are “usually exceptional” at communicating with the district when a child is held on the bus, so that the district can communicate with parents.

Though he hasn’t yet completed a review of footage to see what exactly transpired with Sides’ daughter, and didn't confirm whether the bus driver followed SBI's policy, Lanphier, a father of three, did offer an understanding of what might run through a parent’s mind.

“I do sympathize with [Sides] that they’re new here, that it was about 30 degrees, that their child did get off approximately two blocks away from her regular bus stop. It might make you nervous when you don’t know the area. I get it,” Lanphier said. “I’m a father of three kids, they’re grown up now, but I still understand. Your kid is walking home and they might be unfamiliar with where they’re at, so I totally understand the situation.”

He furthered that SBI emphasized to their drivers the importance of getting to know the children on their bus routes, including what their normal stops are, to ensure their experience on the bus is safe and positive.

Sides said that while she feels like the situation involving her daughter has been resolved to her satisfaction, she wants other parents to be aware of what could happen when their children take the bus.


Lanphier and the SFSD encourages all parents to download the StopFinder app to know their students have safely entered and exited the school bus.

The Sioux Falls School District did not respond to an inquiry regarding the incident.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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