A bus driver and an attendant with the Polk County (Fla.) school district have been charged with negligent child abuse after they allegedly left a 13-year-old special needs student behind on a bus twice in one week.
WFLA-TV reports that Gale Brown, a bus driver, and Gwendolyn Simmons, a bus attendant, are accused of parking and leaving the vehicle without checking to see if any students were still on the bus.
The student, who attends Our Children's Academy, a charter school in Lake Wales, had fallen asleep. He was left on the bus on March 2 and again on March 8. Authorities say that on the days he was left on the bus, the boy had to climb out a window or force a door open to get out of the vehicle and then hitchhike and walk about 30 miles to get home.
The incidents were videotaped on the bus security system.
“The attendant walked right by him on March 2," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "The driver paid absolutely no attention when she left the bus."
Authorities learned what had happened to the student after a therapist called the boy's mother when he didn’t show up for an appointment.
The bus is equipped with a “child reminder system,” which requires the driver or attendant to push a button at the rear of the bus to turn it off. That is supposed to ensure that a driver or attendant check the bus for children prior to leaving.
The employees admitted to investigators that they had a student de-activate the system and that they did not check the bus for students before leaving.
Video from WFLA-TV: