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I-TEAM | Bungled bus stop: Investigation uncovers major mistake on local school bus

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If school buses carry our most precious cargo, why was a little girl dropped off at a gas station more than 2 miles from home?

An all-new I-Team investigation uncovers a major mistake on a local school bus.

In the video, the driver lets a child off at a gas station. The 7-year-old walks off and the bus drives away.

As you might imagine, the little girl’s mother was not happy, so she reached out to our I-Team’s Meredith Anderson.

At first, the district refused to give it to us, so we enlisted the help of one of our attorneys. Now we can show you exactly what happened in hopes it never happens again.

When the clip begins, Kaaliyah Thompson is the last child on the bus. The talkative Wrens Elementary School student is chatting with the bus monitor when it happens.

Kaalyiah: “You know what, when I get to my house I’m gonna take a nap.”

Bus monitor: “O-kay!”

Bus monitor: “Where do you live at?”

Kaalyiah: ‘I live down there, but, but I want to be dropped off right here.”

Bus monitor: “Ok”

Kaalyiah: “Yeah. And I’ll call my mom.”

Bus monitor: “Ok.”

Bus Driver: “Right here?”

Same time: Bus monitor: “Yep.” Kaaliyah: “Uh huh.”

Bus monitor: “Ok. Bye.”

Kaalyiah: “Bye.”

Bus driver: “Goodbye.”

This isn’t Kaaliyah’s bus stop. It’s a gas station almost two miles from where she was supposed to be let off.

“She don’t even know my phone number,” confessed Angela Thompson, Kaalyiah’s mother.

Mom was at work at another gas station, also a Jet, more than five miles away.

“They drop her off at another Jet, thank God, because that Jet called me and was like, ‘you know, we’re gonna call the sheriff’s department or whatever.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m gonna call it myself!’”

Technically, no one committed a crime, so deputies told mom they weren’t getting involved. That’s when Angela Thompson reached out to the I-Team.

The single mom was at a loss when we spoke by Zoom the day after it happened. She had been at the school trying to find out what happened when she saw the video.

“I saw no adult. All I saw was a little girl running into a parking lot. And, you know, that could have been anything --sorry, I didn’t mean to cry.”

Kaaliyah was safe, but the “what ifs” made her too worried to send her to school.

“The gentlemen apologized,” she said. “The bus driver apologized. You know, he was explaining he’s an older man or whatever. That he would have never put my child in harm’s way. But um...that doesn’t make me feel better.”

Kaaliyah has apologized to her mom, too. Mom says, she did get in trouble at home, but while her daughter isn’t innocent, she’s also not the one to blame.

Two adults were on the bus that day.

“If it was your child, would you have left that child in that parking lot? And drove off? No,” said Angela.

The I-Team reached out to Superintendent Molly Howard for an interview. She declined but gave us this statement:

“The safety of our children at school, as well as to and from school, is our top priority. This mistake should not have occurred and does not reflect our policy or our priority for protecting our children. Actions have been taken to ensure this will not happen again.”

When the I-Team asked her about those actions, she said she was “not at liberty to elaborate since this is a personnel matter.”

What matters to Kaaliyah’s mom is that her child and every other child on that bus is safe.

“They should know way better, and if it’s my kid getting done like that, what about the next? And the next? And the next?”

After all, as the bus drives away, the driver and monitor appear unphased. The clip continues for another minute and a half and neither one even questions what just happened.

This isn’t the first time mom says she’s had trouble with Jefferson County Schools. Kaaliyah has ODD, ADHD, and Transitional Displacement Disorder. She says she’s tried to get her an IEP (Individualized Education Program) but hasn’t gotten anywhere because she refuses to medicate her daughter.

As a recovering amphetamines addict herself, she believes it’s just too dangerous.

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