A 4-year-old boy was allegedly found by himself on a road on Tuesday after he fell asleep and remained on the bus instead of disembarking at Cawood Elementary School.
Harlan County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard said it appears the child was asleep.
“They’re assuming the child went to sleep on the bus,” Howard said. “The bus driver went home, parked his bus, and then the child got off and started walking on the road.”
Howard said a man saw the boy on the road, stopped and picked him up and took him to school.
“We are extremely thankful the student was not injured,” Howard said. “Immediately upon learning of the situation, school district officials met with the family.”
Howard said school district officials have opened an investigation into the incident.
“We’ve got policies and procedures in place that are intended to prevent anything like this from happening, but unfortunately it appears that it has,” Howard said.
He said approximately 24 minutes passed from the time the bus pulled away from the school and when the boy was brought to the school.
“The bus pulled out at 8:28 a.m. and the child was back inside the school at 8:52 a.m.,” Howard said.
Jennifer Caldwell, the boy’s mother, said the bus picked her child up at approximately 8:15 a.m.
At approximately 9:20, the school called wanting to know why the boy was saying he walked to school, Caldwell explained.
Caldwell said the school representative mentioned the boy must have been referring to being dropped off at the school.
“When he said that, I said my kid wasn’t dropped off, he rode the bus,” Caldwell said. “It shocked them when I told them I put him on the bus…because this man brought my child in.”
Caldwell mentioned a man had picked her son up on the side of the road and brought him into school.
“Just by the grace of God he happened to be a good person, he went to the school and asked does anybody know this kid,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t even know him…Usually you tell your kids don’t go with strangers, and in this case a stranger helped my baby.”
Caldwell said a video shows the aide never got the child off the bus.
Caldwell said she asked her son to explain what happened.
“He said he woke up, he was sleepy and he was all alone, and he got scared,” Caldwell said. “The way he explained it to us, he went off the bus and said he was trying to find mommy or daddy or find school.”
Caldwell said the child was found nearly a mile away from the bus and approximately two miles from the school.
According to Howard, the newer buses are equipped with a buzzer system to prevent this sort of thing from happening.
“The bus driver has to go to the back of the bus when he lets students off when he’s ending his route and parking his bus,” Howard explained. “A buzzer and the horn start going off. This bus was not equipped with that.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde