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Mother advocates for winter weather, bus safety education

BEMIDJI — Janel Samuelson appeared before the Bemidji School Board on Monday to advocate for more winter weather education.

“Our son was dropped off at the wrong bus stop and left alone for an extended period of time,” said Samuelson, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who was dropped off at home after school on March 10 rather than at daycare where he should have gone. The boy, a kindergartner, was reportedly left alone for 45 minutes. But Samuelson did not attend the meeting to address that specific incident, which remains under investigation, but to ask the district to consider implementing curriculum that would teach its students winter weather safety skills.

Her comments came during the “public participation” portion of the meeting, when residents are invited to address on the board on topics of their choosing. Traditionally, the School Board takes such addresses under advisement and does not immediately respond.

“With this being an ongoing investigation we feel it is inappropriate to discuss those details specifically at this time, however we would like to take a few moments to discuss a concern with bus safety and winter weather safety,” she said.

Samuelson said the state has in place a great program that currently educates children on how to prepare for potentially severe weather in the spring and summer, but she would like to see that expanded to specifically address winter weather, as well.

“We may or may not have severe summer weather, but we will have extreme cold weather every year,” she said. “We must be a better job at teaching our students how to deal with them and what to do in an emergency situation in the cold.”

She suggested the district adopt curriculum for all ages to teach such skills.

Her comments come in the wake of the tragic death of Mercedes Mayfield, a 6-year-old girl who died Feb. 27 from hypothermia outside her apartment building. Her death has prompted discussion throughout the community about the potential of additional winter weather education for children.

“We as a community need to do a better job of teaching winter weather safety at home and we must watch out for our neighbors as well,” said Samuelson, who in an email to the Pioneer last week at least partially credited her son’s well-being to such lessons taught at home. “The curriculum is not sufficient if it is not taught and embraced at both home and school.”