LIBERTY, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s a parent’s worst nightmare — learning that his or her child was left alone and possibly put into harm’s way.
Mother Marquita Robertson said she was shocked when she received a Facebook message from an unknown woman, who said she had her daughter. Her five-year-old daughter, Marnieka, had fallen asleep on the school bus on her way home from E.J. Blott Elementary School in Liberty.
It was the kindergarten student’s first day of school. Video from inside the bus shows a substitute bus driver getting off the bus and closing the windows from the outside, without a walk through.
“I can only imagine what she felt, which is hurting me so bad right now,” Robertson said.
It’s an incident Liberty Local Schools Superintendent Stan Watson is calling careless and unacceptable.
Watson said the driver did not follow protocol of walking through the bus to check for students. It was the driver’s first day of working for the district, but Watson said he is making no excuses for the driver’s actions.
“Accidents happen and mistakes happen. This isn’t either one of those, in my estimation. This is beyond that,” he said.
Marnieka woke up scared and confused, left the bus garage and started heading toward Shelly’s Hair and Nails on Churchill Hubbard Road. Shelly Lynch and Gail Warren were working inside when they spotted the girl.
“We saw this child that was running across the lawn, and she was hysterical and crying,” Warren recalled.
They say they went out to stop the girl, and after looking around for her parents, they took her back to the salon, called the police and tried to reach her mother.
“I took a picture of her and sent it to her mom and allowed her to see ‘I have your child. How I got her is why you need to call me,'” Lynch said.
Robertson said her heart dropped when she heard the news.
“Something that was supposed to be her happy moment, something that she might remember turned out to be something horrifying for her and me,” she said.
Superintendent Watson said the district has since taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again. He said the bus driver, who was a substitute, will no longer be working for the district.
He added that he has had no issues with his regular bus drivers, who do not allow kids to get off the bus at a home unless they see someone there.
“It is a nightmare, and as I’ve told the parents and some other folks here, I have grandchildren about that age, and if they’re left on there like that, I would be very, very upset,” he said.