A Brooksville Elementary kindergartner let off at the wrong school bus stop later found by stranger

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - A 5-year-old kindergartner from Brooksville Elementary School was reunited with his mother by a stranger after he was left at the wrong bus stop Wednesday afternoon.

It is the second time in less than eight months a kindergartner from this school got lost on the way home.

"You keep going through the what-ifs," said Danielle Whitehouse, the boy's mother.

Whitehouse's son, Michael, gets out of school at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday afternoon school officials confirmed the little boy got on the correct bus to go home. However, he was able to get off the bus unnoticed at the wrong stop on Union Street, where most of the homes are abandoned.

School dismissal procedures call for students in grades K-5 to be escorted to the bus where the driver is waiting for them.

However, according to Principal Jill Renihan, once the bus leaves school property, the district's transportation department is responsible for the safety of the children on board.

Protocol calls for bus drivers to use their arms as gates when students approach to get off the bus, according to Douglas Compton, the district's transportation director.

Once the student is stopped, the driver is to question the student as to whether this is the correct stop and then check it off against a list. Then, before a child can exit the bus, they must be able to recognize and point out who their parent or guardian is waiting for them at the bus stop.

"It is few and far between luckily [that students are let off at the wrong stop]," said Compton. "We have a good procedure and policy. We have good training in place."

Whitehouse said a concerned parent noticed Michael.

"He's in a neighborhood I am not familiar with and being taken into a car by a complete stranger, which you never know who could have picked him up," she said.

Soon after, she got a knock at her door by the well-intentioned stranger.

"I thought he was safe on a bus being taken home," she said.

A check of FDLE's website revealed there are 80 registered sex offenders living in a five-mile radius of where Michael was let off.

Whitehouse said it was only the third day her son has ridden the bus. She cannot drop him off at school and pick him up because she works as a teacher in a neighboring county.

One of her main roles this school year is to help students at her school get on the bus and home safely. She said her own personal experiences are making her question this ordeal even more.

"Considering it was only three days into school, it does make me nervous that within three days of this awesome training, all this training has worn off. What is going to happen by mid-year and by the end of the year?" she said.

Compton said any time a child dropped at the wrong bus stop, regardless of age or grade, it is taken seriously.

"If it happens once, it is once too many for us," Compton said.

A similar situation, however, happened back in January.

ABC Action News first told you about another kindergartner at Brooksville Elementary School who did not get on his bus. Instead, he managed to wander several miles away from campus. He too was found by a well-intentioned stranger and brought home.

"It is few and far between luckily. We have a good procedure and policy. We have good training in place," Compton said.

Whitehouse won't take any chances and has a new policy of her own: A family member will pick up and drop off Michael at school every day from now on.

Compton called ABC Action News Thursday evening stating he reviewed surveillance video aboard the bus and found the driver followed policy and did an "outstanding job."

According to Compton, students began exiting the bus when other students became involved in a ruckus. He went to tend to those students and stopped letting kids exit. However, it was during that time, Compton said, Michael made his way off the bus.

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