Parent outraged when child found wandering after Polk County bus mix up

Polk County

When you send your child to school, you trust that they will be safe. A Polk County mom says her trust has been shattered after a major school bus mix up.

“There’s stories going around that he got in someone’s car and I don’t know who’s car my son got in yesterday,” Jessica Ward told 8 On Your Side she is outraged.

The day after the incident, her 5-year-old son Ayden ended up in the emergency room.

“He was lethargic, and then this morning he came to my room and he was vomiting everywhere, so we brought him to the ER,” Ward said the hospital put him on fluids for dehydration.

“From being in the sun in 108 degree weather for over two hours yesterday,” she said.

Ward said in the mornings her son rides the bus to Socrum Loop Elementary School, and in the evenings he is supposed to go in a van to martial arts.

She said that didn’t happen on Thursday.

“On my way there, I saw the sheriff’s office calling me, so picked it up and they started asking me if I have a 5-year-old son?” Ward said she was in a panic, thinking the worst.

She learned little Ayden was put on the bus instead and dropped off at home.

“He didn’t know where to go, you know?” she said.

“He went and searched for me and his father on a busy road by himself. I was told by the [martial arts] driver that would have picked him up, that he asked where he was and they [school employees] told him that he wasn’t even there that day; that he was sick,” Ward said.

A school spokesperson told 8 On Your side that a substitute teacher mistakenly put the child on the bus in a statement: 

The student rides the school bus in the morning and takes a van to a martial arts program after school. After consulting with the principal at Socrum Elementary, we believe a substitute teacher mistakenly placed the student on his assigned school bus in the afternoon. 

The principal, who was at Socrum Elementary until nearly 7 p.m. yesterday, said neither she nor her staff were alerted by the van driver or afterschool program that the student was missing, which is the customary practice when a student does not show up. The student was dropped off by a bus driver at his assigned stop. According to our Transportation staff, there are approximately 20 students who use the same bus stop, and the driver had no indication that something was amiss. 

We are deeply sorry for the alarm and confusion caused by this incident. The principal at Socrum Elementary is taking additional measures with her staff to help prevent this from ever happening again, and she is also following up with afterschool programs and their drivers to make sure our staff are notified if a student is unexpectedly absent.

It is a mistake that Ward prays never happens again. 

“There’s pedophiles, there’s cars that could hit him if they’re not paying attention. Thankfully the outcome wasn’t tragic, but he’s traumatized now,” Ward said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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