Driver leaves special needs student, two times

Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 10, 2016
A bus driver and bus attendant for Polk County Schools are accused of child neglect after leaving a 13-year-old boy with special needs on the bus not once, but twice.

Surveillance video on board the bus shows driver Gale Brown and attendant Gwendolyn Simmons grab their belongs and leave the bus without doing a thorough check of the seats.

Fifteen minutes later, the video shows a boy appear from one of the seats. Investigators said it's a 13-year-old with special needs who just woke up from a nap.

The disturbing video shows the boy look around the empty, locked bus and eventually open up the emergency exit window and jump to the road below.

Investigators believe he hitchhiked a ride 30 miles back home.

"You know, I have a question for them. What were you thinking?" Sheriff Grady Judd said, pointing to pictures of Brown and Simmons.

As infuriating as this video is for parents, deputies say the same thing happened again, days later.

"They left a kid on the bus twice in one week -- the same kid -- and he's darn tired of having to hitchhike home," Judd said.

Sheriff Grady Judd said the first time around, the boy only told the bus attendant the next day, but she blew him off.

The next time the school called home because he never showed and that's when deputies got involved.

Brown and Simmons faced a Judge Thursday on charges of child neglect -- bond set at two grand, each.

"Wow, if it's the same bus driver and the same attendant then shame on them. Shame on them because that's their job to take care of those kids," said Jamie Boykin, who has a child who goes to the same charter school, Our Children's Academy in Lake Wales.

Polk County Schools provides the transportation for the school and both the attendant and driver are district employees.

Perhaps even more shocking in this case is investigators said the bus is equipped with a system to prevent this situation from happening.

When the driver turns off the ignition, an alarm sounds that requires someone to walk to the back to silence it.

Judd said they had a kid deactivate it before the final stop.

"All the equipment was functioning. But what wasn't functioning was the brains of the driver and the attendant. It's like, are you kidding me?" Judd said.

The school board said it's fully cooperating with investigators.