A Minneapolis bus driver has been placed on administrative leave after a special needs student was left alone on a school bus for three hours.
As Fox 9 reports, Ra’ Mel Johnson, 7, got on his school bus around 7:30 a.m. on Monday before falling asleep in his seat.
However, when Ra’ Mel woke up, he was alone.
He’d been left inside the school bus, which was parked at the Transportation Services garage. The garage was nearly three miles away from Lucey Laney Elementary.
Mauri Friestleben, the principal of Lucy Craft Laney Community School, said:
“He remembers waking up and being scared because he was alone on the bus.”
At some point, Ra’ Mel managed to get off of the bus and found his bus driver, who then brought him back to the school.
“When he walked into the school he was crying, he was hungry and he kept telling the principal that he pressed the button to get off the bus.”
A spokesman for the Minneapolis Public Schools district released a statement emphasizing protocol and apologizing to Ra’ Mel’s family.
The statement said:
We share concerns about this incident and are investigating what happened and why. There were certainly transportation challenges with this morning’s weather, but standard protocol for all bus drivers serving Minneapolis Public Schools students is to check the bus for any students before exiting. While we cannot go into detail because of data privacy laws, we do apologize again to the family and want them to know we take this very seriously. The driver is on administrative leave pending an investigation.
However, Jasmine Flowers, Ra’ Mel’s mother, says this isn’t the first time her son has had an issue with the bus service. Her son was also left at the wrong stop at the beginning of the school year.
“I was so upset. I told them you know, you get a pass this time, but next time I’m taking action.”
Now Flowers is questioning how the driver could have possibly forgotten about her son.
“You see my son get on the bus every morning and you didn’t pay attention to know that he was still on that bus?”
As Fox 9 reports, Ra’ Mel was “lucky” because many of the students who ride the special needs bus “are so disabled” they wouldn’t have been able to get off on their own.
“You just can’t play with people’s kids. You can’t.”
In December, Dearly reported on a similar incident in Tennessee. In this instance, a 5-year-old boy was left sleeping on a bus by the driver and a teacher, who were both trained to do checks before exiting a bus.
In that case, the teacher and the driver were both suspended. However, the boy’s mother said her son would no longer be riding the bus.
On the other hand, Flowers has not yet commented on whether or not Ra’ Mel will continue to ride with his school’s transportation service.