Police: Driver left special-needs student in school van for 5-plus hours

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A part-time school-bus driver accused of mistakenly leaving a York special-needs child in her van for about 5½ hours when temperatures were in the 40s is having her preliminary hearing rescheduled.

Marilyn M. Tarlton, 67, of Priority Road in York City, appeared before District Judge James Morgan on Thursday, Oct. 18, for her first-degree misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.

But she failed to retain an attorney for the proceeding, and deputy prosecutor Teresa Jauregui told Morgan she believes it's "of the utmost importance" that Tarlton have representation — not just for the criminal hearing but also because there could be a civil litigation going forward.

Marilyn Tarlton

Morgan advised Tarlton to apply for a public defender immediately, then told her she will receive a notice once a new preliminary hearing date has been set.

Charging documents filed by York City Detective Tiffany Pitts in late August state that while transporting students on March 16, Tarlton failed to check the F&S Transportation van to make sure all the students had gotten off.

Documents indicate it was between 8 and 8:30 a.m. when she dropped off students at "the old Central School," now the York Learning Center, which serves special-needs students.

Nonverbal student: A 16-year-old nonverbal special-needs student was still in the van, but Tarlton failed to notice him, documents indicate.

Tarlton drove home and parked the van in her driveway, where it remained for 5½ hours until she drove back to the school to pick up students between 2 and 2:30 p.m., documents allege.

Temperatures that day were in the 40s, police said.

A student who boarded the van asked Tarlton why the 16-year-old was still on the bus, according to police.

"That is when Tarlton first realized that (the youth) had never gotten out of the van," Pitts wrote in charging documents.

Tarlton drove the students home, including the 16-year-old, police said; she dropped him off between 3 and 3:30 p.m.

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Didn't knock: "She stated that (the youth) must have had a key as no one was home," documents state. "She did not knock on the door of the residence, she simply assumed since there were no cars there."

Tarlton told detectives she didn't try to speak with the youth because he is nonverbal, documents state.

Jauregui said the boy made it into his home safely.

F&S Transportation reported the incident that day, after Tarlton told them about it, police said.

Tarlton told police that when she worked full-time for F&S, she was required to fill out a form stating she had checked the bus to ensure it was empty, according to documents. She said once she became part-time, "no one asked or enforced filling out the form so she didn't," Pitts wrote.

Tarlton is no longer employed by F&S Transportation, Pitts confirmed Thursday.

A message left with F&S Transportation was not returned Wednesday.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.