LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County Public School bus driver is on paid administrative leave after a 6-year-old was dropped at the wrong bus stop. The boy was forced to hitchhike home, according to his mom.
On Tuesday, Melanie Rain’s son Calvin was riding the bus home from Southwest Elementary in Lakeland for the first time this year. She waited for him at the bus stop, but the bus came and went and Calvin never got off.
“I was terrified,” Rain recalled. “I tried to stop the bus driver, but she kept going.”
Rain frantically called the school who assured her Calvin’s teacher put him on the right bus. So, Rain tried to follow the bus, assuming her son was still on it.
Nearly an hour later, Rain’s mom called to say Calvin was home. Turns out, the boy got off at the wrong stop, more than a mile and a half from his house.
“I thought I was at my neighborhood, but I wasn’t,” Calvin told News Channel 8. Calvin says he walked to the nearest busy street and stuck his thumb out like a hitchhiker for help.
A friendly stranger pulled over and drove him home.
“What if a sexual predator had picked him up or something?” Rain asked.
She still doesn’t know who drover her son home, but she wants to thank whoever it was.
Polk County Public Schools is investigating and apologized for the mix-up.
Rain would like to see a change in school bus oversight, especially for young, first-time riders.
“She knew there was a new student on the bus,” she said, referring to Calvin’s bus driver.
In the meantime, this momma is taking no chances. She says they’ll be driving Calvin to and from school from now on. After this debacle, 6-year-old Calvin doesn’t seem to mind.
“I don’t want to get lost again,” he said.
As News Channel 8 has previously reported, Polk County Public Schools is facing a bus driver shortage and actively hiring new drivers. However, the district says the driver involved in Tuesday’s mix-up has been with the district since 2004.