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Mom calls News 2 after problems with special needs son taking the bus to school

The gate to the apartment complex had always been open, but when it wasn't, the bus aide was apparently not willing or able to use the code.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Cameron Southerland is already awake and dressed, sitting on the couch playing video games before school one early February morning. 

“He is his own person; he is in his own world,” LaKelsha Southerland said.

Her 10-year-old son smiles but stays focused while playing his video game, not even noticing his older brother as he comes out of his room for the first time today. 

While his parents are getting things ready for the day, Cameron just sits and plays with his game - not even a barking dog can distract him.

What may seem like a gift to be able to tune out the noise is not a choice. Cameron was diagnosed at 5 months old with microcephaly; it’s the abnormal smallness of the head and brain.

“The doctor said he may not walk or talk or do anything; he may just be a vegetable, from then on, my life changed,” Southerland said.

Cameron has defied the odds and while he does not speak, he can walk and has limited coordination with his hands. He is also enrolled full-time in school.

“He’s doing well. He’s doing really well,” Southerland said.

Cameron seems to look forward to going to school and especially enjoys taking the bus each morning. The special needs school bus has been picking Cameron up outside his apartment unit for the past couple of years.

“The bus comes (every day) with no problem, and then one day the gate is locked,” Southerland said.

The main gate to the complex had been opening around 7 a.m. in the morning, which was perfect to allow the bus to enter the complex. However, recently the complex came under new management and the gate started to remain closed past the time the bus would come to pick Cameron up.

“I asked (manager) if she could open up the gate earlier and she said no,” Southerland said.

The manager did allow Southerland to give her gate code to the bus driver and assistant to open the gate. Southerland passed along the code but said the assistant did not feel comfortable getting off the bus to punch in the code.

“She told me she doesn’t think she can do that, (she did) not believe she can get off the bus to put code in,” Southerland said.

At that point, Southerland and her husband had two options: drive Cameron to school or drive him outside the complex and have the bus pick him up. Upset about what happened, Southerland and her husband started to drive Cameron to school.

“I was not happy with (the bus assistant),” Southerland said.

In the meantime, Southerland called News 2 to see if we could assist in the matter. We immediately contacted the apartment management company and the school district. Within 48 hours, the apartment complex agreed to open the gate an hour earlier so the bus could come in.

A liability form between the apartment complex and the school district needed signing and while that took a few days, it eventually got resolved. The bus was now able to enter the complex and pick Cameron up for school.

There was, however, another issue, Southerland was not happy with how things were handled by the bus company, specifically the bus assistant. She was upset that the aid was apparently not willing to get off the bus to punch in a code.

“The whole thing is, they forgot about who they are helping, and that’s a problem,” Southerland said.

News 2 helped coordinate a meeting between the school district and Southerland to discuss the matter and clear the air. Southerland tells us the meeting went very well and she feels comfortable having Cameron ride the bus again.

“Thank you, thank you,” Southerland said.

On this day, Cameron was again up early playing his video game before walking outside to get on the bus for school.

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