LAPEER, Michigan — For Brad Keast, and all parents, there’s nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our kids. Once they walk out the door, we trust that they will always look out for themselves and, even more importantly, that others will look out for them — this is a mark of a strong community.
Fortunately, a strong community is what we have in Lapeer, and Brad Keast wants everyone to know it.
Earlier this month, Keast, whose daughter is a seventh grader at the Rolland-Warner Campus, got an early-morning call that he won’t soon forget.
Like clockwork, Lucy gets on the bus at roughly the same time every school day, give or take a minute or two. Right around the time she would have been picked up, Keast’s cell phone rang.
He swallowed hard when he saw the caller ID. On the other end of the line was the District’s Transportation Director Linda Thompson.
“Lucy couldn’t have been on the bus for more than a minute or two by that time, and she’s already calling me, ” said Keast, whose mind raced with the worst-case scenarios.
Fortunately, Thompson’s experience dealing with parents was evident to Keast almost immediately. There was no small talk — she cut right to the chase.
“I want you to know your daughter is OK.”
As his fears subsided for a moment, Thompson proceeded to tell Keast that Lucy had been approached at her bus stop by an older gentleman, who tried to hold a conversation with her.
When the bus pulled up, Dawn Champagne, the driver, thought it looked suspicious. Before Lucy even made it up the steps, Champagne asked her if she knew the man. When she said no, Champagne immediately contacted the bus garage and alerted Thompson.
“She could’ve waited until she got in from her route, but she didn’t,” Keast said. “I knew within minutes of it happening.”
Keast immediately began contacting neighbors, including City of Lapeer Police Chief Dave Frisch, who just happened to be in his car on his way into town to run errands. It was his day off.
“I told Chief Frisch that a man had approached Lucy and put his arm around her at the bus stop,” he recalled. “Before I could say another word, he’s already spinning his wheels, turning around and going back … so within four and a half minutes, I have the Chief of Police blowing through the neighborhood looking for anybody.”
Chief Frisch scoured the area for any sign of the man who approached Lucy. When he didn’t find anyone, Keast assumed it was one of his neighbors, which he later confirmed after getting a description from his daughter.
“This ended up being a completely benign situation … I know him and he meant no harm,” Keast said. “But had it been anything more … I mean, they were on it immediately.”
In the course of less than five minutes, the bus driver noticed a distressed child, contacted the bus garage, the Transportation Director called the parent, and the parent called the Chief of Police.
“They were on their toes and they didn’t hesitate for a minute,” he said. “I don’t know if they were just doing their jobs or if they’re just that instinctive, but it was awesome.”
As it turns out, it was both. Our drivers train for situations just like this one.
“They are always on the look out for things that don’t seem quite right,” Thompson said. “Dawn is our top senior driver; she did a great job. She looks after her students like they’re her own.”
As a school district, we recognize that most situations like this one do turn out to be benign. Because of this, we cannot afford to let our guard down when it comes to keeping our students safe. The same rule applies to adults as it does to students: If you see something, say something.
This situation had a positive outcome not simply because the man turned out to be harmless, but because people in our community were looking out for Lucy.