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Special Needs Student Was Abandoned on School Bus & Hitchhiked Home—Twice

The Short of It

A 13-year-old Florida student with special needs was left alone on a school bus and forced to hitchhike 30 miles home—twice. WHAT?!

The Lowdown

This is unbelievable. The boy apparently fell asleep on the ride home from school, and he went unnoticed by both the bus driver Gale Brown and school bus attendant Gwendolyn Simmons.

Here's how it all went down: After all of the other children had disembarked, Simmons walked to the front of the bus, not noticing the student asleep in his seat. Brown then parked the bus and turned it off, and both women took off without checking to make sure it was empty.

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The boy can be seen on surveillence video waking up about 15 minutes later and climbing out of the driver's side emergency exit window, after which officials say he hitchhiked and walked approximately 30 miles home!

"The attendant walked right by him," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "The driver paid absolutely no attention when she left the bus."

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Judd says the student went to school the next day and told Simmons that they left him on the bus. Simmons did not believe him.

The worst part? The exact same thing happened again a few days later! The same boy fell asleep in his seat, and he went unnoticed by both women again. His mom finally realized what had happened when he missed his therapy appointment that afternoon.

"What wasn't functioning? The brains of the driver and the attendant," Judd said. "It's like, are you kidding me? They left a kid on the bus twice in one week."

The Upshot

This is a horrible case of gross negligence by both the driver and the bus attendant. Even more damning: The bus is equipped with a child reminder system to ensure they check the bus for children prior to leaving—and it requires one of them to push a button at the back of the bus to turn it off.

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But both women admitted to having a student deactivate the system both days of the incidents. They also admitted that they didn't check the bus for students before leaving.

"Between the two of them, they didn't have one thought in their head about looking out for the well-being of the children on that bus," Judd said.

Both are now on paid administrative leave and have been arrested on charges of child neglect.

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