No lawsuit by parents of child left behind on field trip

MARSHALL – The mother of the 4-year-old Marshall boy who was left behind after a class field trip to the Children’s Museum in Brookings, S.D., told the Independent on Wednesday the family will not seek legal action against the Marshall School District.

Jackie Whylly said she has met with Marshall Schools Superintendent Klint Willert to talk about the incident and express her concerns.

“We’re just trying to keep things as regular as we can right now,” Jackie Whylly said. “We’re not taking any legal action; we just want things to go back to as normal as possible. We’re just trying to move forward.”

Jackie Whylly said her son AJ returned to school the Monday following the April 23 incident and had no problems. She said, like any other child, he’s looking forward to school getting out and for summer to begin.

“AJ is doing fine,” she said. “We love the school and don’t want anyone to get fired over this. We’ve expressed that to the superintendent. The only thing we want is a direct apology from the teacher.”

Jackie Whylly said she appreciates the school district reviewing its field trip policies but wants to be “kept in the loop” as far as changes to said policies; she also would like to be updated on how the investigation into the incident is proceeding.

“It would be great if we can all learn from it,” she said.

Willert said the district found out the child was left behind about the time the bus was roughly 10 to 15 minutes outside of Marshall.

A staff member was sent back to the museum to be with the child until his parents arrived, the school said. Jackie Whylly and her husband Antoine traveled from Marshall to Brookings to pick their son up despite being told he would be brought home.

According to Suzanne Hegg, executive director of the museum, the bus departed from the museum about 1:30 p.m., and at approximately 2:15 p.m., a museum staff member brought AJ to the welcome desk and reported that the child was left unattended. By 2:30 p.m., the museum determined he was from Marshall and received confirmation from the school that he was one of their students, and that they would immediately come pick him up. Hegg said a school representative returned to the museum about 3:45 p.m., followed by the parents “shortly thereafter.”

Hegg said the recorded times might be off by a few minutes, but that the museum makes every effort to document things carefully.

“Once we realized it would be a while before anyone got here, our employee called the school back to find out if he had any allergies,” Hegg said. “When we discovered he had no allergies, we took him into the cafe and asked him if he wanted anything. He said he wanted chocolate milk, so he got some chocolate milk. One of our staff was assigned to play with AJ, and they played together until the grown-ups got there.”

Willert said there were 45 children on the trip, accompanied by 23 parents – 20 on the bus and three in separate vehicles – two paraprofessionals and two teachers. Two students, he said, rode home with their parents.

Marshall was one of eight schools visiting the museum that day, Hegg said, “so it was a busy day here.”

Willert said no staff members have been fired, although one teacher has been put on administrative leave, and that the school district is investigating the incident. The results of the investigation, he said, will be shared with the Minnesota Department of Education.

The school district’s policies regarding student trips was a main point of discussion at Monday’s school board meeting. The district’s student trip policies and procedures were reviewed and revised.