NEW ROADS, LA (WAFB) - The first week of school often comes with a few hiccups, but one mother in New Roads says what happened to her 6-year-old is inexcusable.
"That's where she gets off the bus, the bus drops her off right there," Angelica Smith said, pointing to the end of her driveway on Walter Smith Road.
It's where her first grader, Jaylen, got off the bus on the first day of school. But Tuesday afternoon, Jaylen's journey home was much longer. The bus driver dropped her off 13 miles away from home on Chenal Road in Rougon. Jaylen told the driver she wanted to get off with her friend, but her Mom had no idea.
"I just was nervous, I didn't know what to do," Smith said. "It was three hours, that was too long for one, they couldn't give me no kind of information, so we had to ride to find Jaylen."
A call from another parent eventually led Smith to her daughter, but now she wants to know why the driver let her 6-year-old call the shots.
So does Linda D'Amico, Superintendent of Pointe Coupee Parish Schools. Jalyen's bus is operated by First Student, a contract company. D'amico said the policies of Pointe Coupee schools and First Student are the same: students can only get off at a different stop with a note signed by the principal.
"This mistake should not have happened," D'Amico said. "They receive extensive training. In this case, I can't say what will happen to this employee, because it's not an employee of Pointe Coupee parish. It's an employee of the contract bus system of First Student. I do know what my plans are in recommending what takes place."
D'Amico will recommend the driver be terminated, but that decision is left to First Student. The company declined an on-camera interview, but spokesperson Jen Biddinger released this statement:
"The safety of the students we transport each day is our core value and a responsibility we take very seriously. As is the procedure any time a concern is brought to our attention, First Student is conducting a thorough internal review of this incident. The driver involved has been removed from the route. All of our drivers at the location are also being reminded of proper drop off procedures. We sincerely apologize for the concern this incident has caused the student, her family and the school district."
It's evident in downtown New Roads that good drivers are hard to find. A prominent sign advertising for First Student drivers reads "No experience necessary," and "$12.00 per hour."
D'Amico said she will personally ensure all drivers are aware of all rules and regulations.
"We will retrain," she said. "I will request retraining with First Student, and training that I want to be there, to be sure I can emphasize that unless you get a note from school personnel signed by the principal, children are not allowed to make their own decisions. Retraining will at least give me the peace of mind that it won't happen again."