The single mother of a 10-year-old Naperville girl says her daughter's school bus driver recently kicked her off the bus, forcing the young girl to walk home, all because she forgot a mask.
"She's in tears, and she's crying and said, 'I got kicked off the bus.' I said, 'What did you do? What happened?' I didn't have a mask," Natalie Young explained, recounting a conversation with her fifth-grade daughter, Cydnee, following an incident on the morning of May 11.
Masks are mandatory in school buildings and on school buses throughout Illinois, in adherence with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. However, the school district Young's daughter attends, Indian Prairie School District 204, doesn't have extra masks onboard buses.
To make matters worse, Cydnee is the only Black child on the bus. Young told NBC 5 her daughter felt singled out.
Get Chicago local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Chicago newsletters.
"They told her stand up, everybody look at her, now you get off the bus," the mother said. "It was sad all around."
Cydnee, who usually keeps a spare mask in her backpack, tried to cover her face with her jacket, but was instead asked to leave.
Young, who said she was fortunate enough to be at home when the incident occurred, wondered what would have happened if she was elsewhere at the time. She said the situation could've been much worse, especially in wake of a recent kidnapping attempt of an 11-year-old girl at a Florida bus stop.
The terrifying encounter, which was caught on camera, ended when the girl fought back, and the suspect, a 30-year-old man, took off.
"It fell into my resolve all over again," Young, the Naperville mother, explained. "No, you’ve got to say something. I can’t be the only one this happened to."
As a result, she wrote a letter to her daughter's school district.
In a statement to NBC 5, Indian Prairie School District 204 noted face masks are required for all students riding a bus, per state guidelines. The district added "the bus driver offered for the child to go home and get a mask. The child declined."
School district officials also said the driver waited to see that the child was safely inside her home before leaving. Young, however, disputed that point.
She said the bus stop is just far enough away from her house, it would be difficult to see her front door. Young said the situation could have been easily resolved if masks were placed on buses for emergencies.
The school district explained it is looking into offering personal protective equipment on buses next year.
"Safety above all should always be their concern," Young said.
The full statement from Indian Prairie School District 204 is below:
"In reference to the incident that occurred on May 11, 2021, face masks are required for all students riding a bus and at school per state guidelines. Prior to boarding the bus, the driver noticed the student was not wearing a mask. The driver asked if the student had a spare mask in her backpack. Upon checking, the student indicated she did not have a mask. The bus driver offered for the child to go home and get a mask while the driver waited for the child. The child declined and indicated her mother would take her to school. Per district procedure, the driver waited to see that the child was safely inside the home before leaving the bus stop.
We do not currently have PPE available on buses, however this is under consideration for next school year.
We currently have 365 buses running 1,267 routes serving over 9,000 students daily.
The safety of our students is always a top priority."