News 12 This Morning/Thursday March 20, 2014
WILKES CO., Ga. (WRDW)--"What I know is that my child was left on the school bus," said Tommie Williams, mother of five.
Officials confirm it happened Friday morning.
Williams' 5-year-old son, Cornelius, fell asleep on the bus ride to school and instead of waking up on campus, he woke up inside of the bus at the Wilkes County Schools bus depot.
"And when he woke up, he did get off of the bus and wander around the area that the bus shop is located," Williams explained. "He kind of just of just walked around and was screaming and crying and finally some guy walked up to him and that's how he was found. I was not notified. And that is my child and I felt like I should have been notified."
The director of transportation, Darla Ward, wouldn't talk to me on camera, but she confirms Cornelius was found outside at the bus depot and that when he was discovered, they immediately went into action.
Ward tells me she had another driver take him back to school on a different bus. She also confirms she did not call Williams and let her know what happened.
Ward says driver policy after drop-off is to come back to the depot, park and turn off the bus and do a sweep to the back of the bus where a child safety button is located.
"I really want to know why. Why didn't you cut the bus off and do your protocol, walk to the back of the bus and make sure that there was no child on the bus?" asked Williams.
Now, the police are investigating this incident.
"I filed a report stating that my child was unattended and neglected on that school bus," Williams explained.
"We are gathering all the facts. Right now, no charges have been pressed," said Investigator Philip Perkins with the Washington Police Department, who is collecting evidence in this case.
Williams says she wouldn't have known about the incident if her son hadn't told her about it.
The school was also unaware because, after picking Cornelius up at 6:30 am and discovering him at the depot, the transportation department got him to school on time before the first bell at 8:15 am rang.
"I'm grateful that he's safe but, I just feel like it's not something to take lightly because it's our children," said Williams. "I feel like the consequences need to stand there so that it doesn't happen again."
Ward, the transportation director, went on to explain that on the morning of this incident, before shutting the bus off and doing a sweep, the driver parked the bus briefly and went inside to hand in some paperwork.
She says that's when Cornelius got off the bus and walked around, he was found only minutes later. Ward says this isn't a case off the driver neglecting to follow policy, but instead an abnormal occurrence.
But, Ward says they're also doing an investigation and handling consequences for the driver. She could not share those consequences.
Ward also tells me it was a mistake not to contact Williams about the incident. She says the Wilkes County transportation departments first concern is always student safety.