Special needs teen left on school bus twice in 2 weeks; 2 charged with neglect

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A special needs student was left on a school bus twice in the span of weeks (KTRK)

Florida police say a school bus driver and attendant left a special needs student unattended on a bus not once, but twice in the span of two weeks.

The two women are facing charges, accused of exiting the bus without making sure it was empty.

Both incidents were recorded on the bus's video system.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd showed the accused women's photos during a press conference, saying, "I want to introduce you to two people who will not be the school bus driver and attendant of the year for the Polk County School system. Gail Brown the driver, Gwendolyn Simmons, the attendant."

Authorities say on March 2, Brown and Simmons were dropping off students at Lake Wales Christian School when they left a 13-year-old with special needs sleeping in one of the seats, WKMG reports.

Judd says both women didn't know he was there. Looking at surveillance video of the bus, Judd said, "She was too busy gathering up two or three bags of something she had. And you can see her...she's out carrying the bags and does not even look down at this child laying in the seat sleeping next to her."

About 15 minutes later, the teen realized he was alone, climbed out the emergency window and hitchhiked to his home 30 miles away.

The sheriff said the teen didn't tell anyone about the incident, except the attendant who left him.

Then, it all happened again a week later.

Deputies say the women left the bus with the teen sleeping inside again. Several minutes later, the teen woke up again and left through the bus's front door. He hitchhiked home again.

Judd said, "It's like, what are you thinking? We know what they were thinking - nothing!"

Both women were arrested and charged with child neglect.

Judd said, "We're blessed that he was picked up on every occasion by good folks who gave him a ride home, and that he wasn't picked up by some n'er-do-well or child predator or someone who wanted to create harm for him."

Officials say the women admitted to telling a student to deactivate the bus's child reminder system, a feature that reminds employees to ensure the bus is vacant before leaving.

Related Topics:
u.s. & worldspecial needs childrenFlorida
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