WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A Wayland mom didn’t know where her 4-year-old son was for 40 minutes after his bus driver dropped him off at the wrong stop.
She said Wayland Union Schools officials made it worse when they lied to her to cover up the mistake, even as her son was still missing.
“I can’t even put it into words the feeling that you have when your child is gone and you don’t know where they’re at,” Stacie Thomas told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.
The Wayland Union Schools bus driver was supposed to drop off her son Jaxon at Kids First Learning Place day care in Wayland at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday after his first day at Young 5s. But his mom said the day care called her at work at 4:20 p.m.
“She’s like, ‘He didn’t get off the bus.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean he didn’t get off the bus?'” Thomas recalled the phone conversation.
In a panic, the single mom of three called the school, which was closed, while co-workers called her family. Then, she said, she called the bus garage.
“She (a woman at the garage) said, ‘I can assure you he’s on the wrong bus, that he’s safe,'” the mom said.
A short time later, a woman at the bus garage told her that Jaxon wasn’t on the wrong bus after all, but had been dropped off with other kids at the wrong stop, near Village Green Apartments, more than a mile from the day care.
“When I found out they lied to me and they didn’t know where he was, I just lost it,” the mom said. “Oh my God, he’s gone. Where could he be?”
It was even scarier, she said, because her son needs medication for chronic lung disease.
“He can’t be out in the heat, the humidity and here he is with no medication, nothing. Anything could have happened to him,” she said.
About half an hour after Jaxon went missing, a woman who lives nearby saw a boy she didn’t know. She called the bus garage. Within minutes, his bus picked him up and Jaxon and his mom were reunited.
“He’s bawling, saying, ‘Why did you leave me with strangers?'” his mom said.
He later told his mom he had played in the woods and had taken off his shirt because it was so hot.
“I looked for frogs and animals and deers,” Jaxon said.
His mom said there was no reason for the mix-up. His name and the name of the bus stop are attached to his backpack.
“I want to know why that protocol wasn’t followed. I want to know what kind of training this woman had,” Thomas demanded. “I don’t necessarily want anybody to be fired, but I don’t think this should ever happen to somebody else’s child.”
Wayland Union Superintendent Norman Taylor wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but Director of Instruction Teresa Fulk confirmed that Jaxon had been dropped off at the wrong stop.
“The bus driver realized it and picked him up,” Fulk said.
She said she didn’t have all the details. The district immediately investigated and “put procedures in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Fulk said.
Jaxon’s mom told 24 Hour News 8 that she wanted to know who helped her son so she could thank her and learn more about what happened for 40 minutes. Minutes later, the woman pulled up.
“Hey, nice to meet you. What happened? Thank you so much,” Thomas told her.
“He was out there running around and we noticed that he didn’t belong here,” Amanda Almy said.
“God only knows what could have happened if it wasn’t for you,” Thomas said.