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Polk County bus driver placed on paid leave after leaving 6-year-old at wrong bus stop

Posted at 4:29 PM, Oct 04, 2018

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Polk County School District tells us they have placed a bus driver on paid administrative leave while they investigate a six-year-old who was dropped off at the wrong bus stop.

Melanie Rain tells ABC Action News that her son Calvin has been begging her to ride the school bus since the beginning of this year, "he said mommy I want to be like everybody else, I want to be a big boy, I want to the ride bus," she said. 

Rain said she went down to Southwest Elementary School to sign Calvin up to take the bus. 

On Tuesday it was his first day to ride the 'blue' bus — but after school, he failed to get off at the proper stop.

Rain said her son was dropped off at the first bus stop, instead of the fourth one near their home on Northride Trail in Lakeland. 

Calvin told his mother that he tried to walk home in the rain, but could not find his way.

The six-year-old decided to stand on the corner of Nancy Boulevard and put his thumb up. 

Rain said she was devastated to find out a stranger picked Calvin up on the corner, especially after she's told him to never get in a car with strangers. 

"I said where'd you get the idea to put your thumb up and he said people on the side of the road do it when they need help," said Rain.

Thankfully, after more than an hour lost, Calvin was able to describe where he lived and the good samaritan returned him home. 

"I want to find her so I can tell her thank you," said Rain. "She deserves a Grady Judd award or something."

A spokesperson for the district said the driver had been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. 

Read their full statement here: 

We are grateful that our student is safe, and we apologize for any distress this incident brought to him and his family.
We will determine whether policies and procedures were followed. Our driver has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
The driver has been with the Transportation department since 2004.
Last month, School Board members voted unanimously to change the job description for bus drivers. A high school diploma or GED is no longer a requirement for being a permanent bus driver. This educational background is now only preferred.
The change to job description will help create a larger pool of applicants. All of our drivers — regardless of their educational background — must undergo extensive training prior to transporting students.
We currently have approximately 39 bus driver positions available. We have 10 applicants who are finishing training, and we hope to hire and have them driving next week.