ST. CLOUD, Fla. - The parents of a 5-year-old St. Cloud student say they were terrified after their child was dropped off at the wrong school bus stop. The boy's father was waiting for him to arrive at his bus stop, but when it showed up without him, both parents feared the worst.
"No parent should go through that. That was the longest hour that felt like 20 hours of not knowing," says Jessica Ricketts.
She and her husband, Omar Rodriguez, panicked when they say their son, Ezekiel, failed to be dropped off at his bus stop in St. Cloud.
"I freaked out totally freaked out," Rodriguez says as he asked the bus driver where his son was. "The most she was doing is say that he never got on the bus."'
It turns out Ezekiel was on the bus but got off at the wrong stop. We asked Ezekiel where he was during that hour. He replied, "At my friend's house." Ricketts explains, "A mom found him. She got my number somehow and that’s how we found him. Not the school, not the bus."
Osceola County Schools Superintendent Deborah Pace says she is looking into this after failing to be notified about this when it was happening. An Osceola School District spokesperson released a statement saying in part, "In the first few weeks of school, it’s impossible for the drivers and attendants to know all their students off the bat. Once we were made aware of this situation, we immediately pulled every resource possible to find the student."
"I actually had transportation call me and all they told me was they’re gonna have a talk with them about doing IDs," Ricketts adds.
The district is using a new Student Ridership program, where drivers scan a student’s ID when they come on and off the bus, but it’s still in the testing stage. We asked Ezekiel if his ID was scanned. He replied, "No."
"Horrible, horrible," Ricketts says, adding that what happened is unacceptable. "We already had issues with the bus because everything was so late. It's frustrating."
She says her 7-year-old daughter also takes the bus and says this would have been avoided if they were allowed to sit next to each other. Instead, she was at the back of the bus and couldn't see when her brother exited.