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Parent: 6-year-old put on wrong bus, unaccounted for three hours

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 4:07 PM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 7:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Monday afternoon was a stressful one for parent Jessica Walker when she learned her 6-year-old was not at her afterschool program where she was supposed to be.

“I didn’t know if my child was alive, I didn’t know if she was okay, I didn’t know where she was,” Walker said. “I honestly thought that my child was gone and I wasn’t going to get her back. And I couldn’t get here fast enough.”

Walker works out of town and relies on both the Georgetown County School District and the YMCA to look after her children until pick up time, around six p.m.

Her two children usually take the bus from Maryville Elementary School to the YMCA.

When her son realized he couldn’t find his sister, he tried to alert someone, to no avail.

“Nobody has an answer for me. Nobody can tell me how and why that happened. It’s not okay with me. The apologies, is not what I’m looking for. I need you to tell me how for three hours, my child is not known to be any place,” Walker said.

She was found more than three hours after school nearby where the family lives by a local church member and a Georgetown police officer, without adult supervision.

Walker says her daughter was muddy “head to toe” when they were reunited.

“She’s ADHD, she’s on medication. There’s constant concern with situations going inside the classroom where teachers are talking all the time because they know my daughter is not a focused child. And had she ran off or gotten into somebody’s car or got hit by a bus or got hit by a car, nobody was watching her,” Walker said.

“All I got told was the person that was on bus duty was not working that day. So, when one person goes off and takes off work, who’s supposed to be protecting my kids then?” she added.

Georgetown County School District reports the bus driver has been placed on leave pending an internal investigation.

A released statement reads:

Georgetown County School District is aware of the incident. Tonja Johnson, principal of Maryville Elementary, and Tyrone Davis, Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Transportation, have met with the parent. GCSD considers student safety, including while on district transportation, a top priority and is taking this incident very seriously.

We have bus procedures in place to ensure that students are transported to and from school safely. Proper procedure is for a student to be dropped off at their assigned location. In the event that there are questions about the assigned drop-off location, including when a student is found to be riding the wrong bus, the driver is to contact the school for assistance and/or return the student to their school.

In this unfortunate situation, this did not happen. The bus driver did not follow proper safety protocols. This is not an experience we wish for any of our families. The bus driver is on leave pending an internal investigation. GCSD Transportation Administration is working with our bus drivers to review proper safety procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.

Major Nelson Brown with Georgetown PD says there a report will not be available until Friday morning.

He says there is no criminal investigation at this time.

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