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Mom sues district, school board after son left on bus twice

Mom sues to bring changes to buses, school
Posted at 6:57 PM, Apr 07, 2017

The mom the of the 13-year-old boy who has autism and was left on a school bus alone twice is now suing the school, district and school board. 

According to the lawsuit filed on Monday, Suzanne Riha's son was first left alone on a school bus in March 2016. 

The bus driver and bus attendant exited the bus without checking to see if there were any students on board. 

The bus is equipped with an alarm to notify them if a student is still on board, but had been deactivated. 

The teen woke up to find himself alone on the bus and climbed out a window to get out.

He hitchhiked back to his more nearly 30 miles away. 

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"What if he didnt know how to open the door?," said Riha, "or get the door open? He would have been stuck on a hot bus all day."

Riha says she didn't find out about the incident until a week later when a therapist contracted by her son's school, Our Children's Academy, called her to let her know her son hadn't shown up to school.

"At that point it was panic mode because I know I put him on the bus," said Riha. 

About thirty minutes later, she got a call from her daughter letting her know her son had made it back home, once again, he had hitchhiked. 

Surveillance video from the bus on both dates show the teen inside the bus alone and getting out. 

"It makes me sick to my stomach every time I see it," said Riha.  

Riha says she's since contacted administrators at the Polk Co. School district to bring changes, but to no avail.

She says the lawsuit is the only way she thinks they'll pay attention.

Representatives from the district and school say they can't comment about the case pending the lawsuit. 

Riha is asking for $75,000 in damages for negligence, saying her son still gets nervous about riding the bus. 

"He has fears and anxieties," she said. 

Riha says the school now requires staff to contact parents if their child doesn't show up.

However, she wants that requirement to become district wide and hopes administrators will update the alarm system on busses so it can't be easily deactivated.