BEVERLY — Former school bus driver Pauline Cloyd’s lawyer admitted it was a mistake for her to leave a 6-year-old boy outside his empty, locked home one cold, rainy afternoon last month.
But was it a crime?
Beverly police and the child’s mother think so. And yesterday, Cloyd, 66, of Beverly, appeared in Salem District Court to face a charge of child endangerment. The bus monitor, Walter Jankowski, 65, of Beverly, is facing the same charge.
Cloyd’s arraignment was postponed on procedural grounds yesterday, as her attorney, Travis Pregent, called the charge against the 35-year veteran bus driver “outrageous.”
“From the perspective of the 6-year-old and his mother and father, it’s certainly the furthest thing from outrageous,” countered prosecutor Patrick Collins.
On the morning of Monday, Jan. 6, the boy’s mother told staffers at St. John the Evangelist School that her son would be taking the school bus to her office that afternoon because she had to work that day. Normally, the boy rode the bus to the office only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And that afternoon, the 6-year-old made a point of telling Jankowski, the bus monitor, that he was supposed to go to his mom’s office.
Both Jankowski and Cloyd second-guessed the child, telling him that because it wasn’t Tuesday or Thursday, they wouldn’t drop him off, the police report states. And as they passed the business, they later told investigators, they saw no one outside waiting for him.
The bus traveled another two miles to the school bus stop near the child’s home.
The boy told Cloyd and Jankowski that there was no one home. And, just like at the clinic, there was no one at the stop waiting for him. The boy told them again that his mom was at work.
But they told him that they were dropping him off because that is where he lives, according to the police report. The child nodded and got off the bus.
He walked up to the house, and, as he had expected, found it locked. Then, he walked back to the sidewalk and stood there in the rain, crying, not knowing what to do, he later told police.
A family friend happened to pass by and put the boy in her car, then called his mother.
His mother, meanwhile, had been frantically calling the school after her son failed to appear at her office.
The following day, she confronted the bus driver and the monitor as they dropped the boy off, telling them they hadn’t used common sense.
Cloyd apologized, according to a police report, but Jankowski yelled at the woman, telling her to “move on” and citing a school policy that, he contended, does not require that someone be present to pick up a 6-year-old at the bus stop.
The mother said she complained to William Burke, the school district’s director of transportation, and told him she was going to report the situation to police, and he told her, “Go ahead.”
Later, questioned by police, Burke, Cloyd and Jankowski acknowledged that when presented with conflicting information about where to drop off the child, they never used the radio on the bus or even their own phones to call the school and clear things up.
Both Cloyd and Jankowski also told police that because they knew the boy lived in that neighborhood, he would be safe, and that they believed they had used “good common sense,” according to a police report.
The boy’s mother, who has asked not to be identified because it would identify her son, said she was horrified, pointing out that just last week a resident of her neighborhood was charged with possession of child pornography.
The child’s mother said it’s not the incident, but the response of the driver and monitor and transportation director, that led to her complaints to police.
She no longer allows her son to ride the school bus, she said.
Cloyd’s attorney said yesterday that his client was forced to resign as a result of the incident.
“At worst, it’s a mistake,” said Pregent, who believes the loss of Cloyd’s job ought to be punishment enough. “For her to be charged, it’s outrageous.”
Pregent said Cloyd has cried over what happened. “She feels awful,” he said.
Judge Robert Brennan decided to delay the arraignment because Cloyd was never sent a notice of her right to a clerk magistrate’s hearing. The case was postponed until March 6.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.