SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — A 5-year-old autistic boy in Washington County got left on a school bus for hours. His mother says the board of education tells her one story, but a woman who says she spotted the child alone tells another.
It’s been less than a week since Shonna Hannah received the call that her son was left on a Washington County bus for hours.
"He went on to tell me that Will was left on the bus that morning by the bus driver, and he made it seem like it wasn't a long period of time, and he was OK and he was checked out by the nurse," Hannah recalled about the conversation with Washington County Superintendent.
The bus picked up her son before 8 a.m. that morning, but he never made it to school.
Instead, he was taken back to where the buses were parked at the board of education.
"I asked him I don't know how many times in that meeting with him and her, 'How long he was on that bus, what time, who found him, and how and why?' Nobody, not yet, has answered those questions," Hannah explained to 13WMAZ.
She then stumbled on a Facebook post from the woman who found him alone and afraid.
"She went there to apply for a job. She was supposed to be there at 1:00, she got there at 12:50. She said when she pulled in and the buses was lined up there she could see this child behind this bus so she stopped because she seen no other people around," Hannah said.
Part of the procedure for bus drivers is to press a "child check button". That ensures all students have gotten off the bus. Washington County School Superintendent Dr. Rickey Edmond says the driver pressed the button that day.
"We do have a standard protocol and the protocol was followed. That is my response,” Edmond said. We asked him to explain the protocol and he said, “That means you walk the bus. You go from the seat to the end and back.” 13WMAZ reporter Caleesha Moore then asked about the button bus drivers are supposed to press and whether it was pressed that day, he confirmed it was.
Edmond maintains the child was only unattended for about two hours and says they're thankful the child wasn't hurt.
"On the day of that incident, we activated our crisis management team immediately, informed the parent and she has been wonderful working with us this whole process," Edmond explained.
"I refuse now to even talk to him anymore -- I have nothing left to say to him, because if they covered that up and tried to hide that and tried to tell this parent to keep her mouth shut, they're hiding more than what we know," she said.
Hannah says she has contacted an attorney. Though Hannah was told the driver would be relieved Monday, we asked the board of education if the driver involved was fired-- they could not answer.
Dr. Edmond willingly spoke to us on camera Tuesday morning.
Tuesday afternoon, he asked to retract his interview for a statement that reads:
"On Friday, the Washington County School District’s Transportation Department discovered a student on a school bus after all of the other students had exited the bus. No harm came to the student and the student was examined by medical staff employed by the district. The correct protocols were followed and the guardian was immediately notified of the incident.
Washington County School District takes the safety and wellbeing of our students incredibly seriously. It is our top priority. Currently, this incident is under investigation and the appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that this does not occur again."