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Lost Bradenton kindergartener walks 1.5 miles from school after not being put on bus

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Posted at 10:07 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 23:07:56-05

BRADENTON, Fla. — On Friday, Ashley Jones says she was waiting for her six-year-old son Dakota to get off the bus, but he never did.

"It’s scary. I hope no one ever has to go through this ever," said Jones.

Jones says her young daughters say they told the bus driver their brother was missing, but the bus was cleared to leave.

"How does an avid bus rider go missing off the school property and come out of a walkers gate when they have a protocol?" said Jones.

Little Dakota had somehow gone out the walker's gate at Prine Elementary in Bradenton.

According to witnesses, the boy was spotted crossing busy roads and had walked 1.5 miles away.

"He was severely dehydrated, his face was red," said Samuel Darnell, when he finally found his son.

Jones was relieved her son was found safe and that things didn’t end up much worse.

"My main thing is answers. I want answers," said Jones.

ABC Action News reached out to the Manatee County School District who gave us this statement:

The School District of Manatee County and Prine Elementary are reviewing the circumstances that occurred during dismissal on Friday, December 10, 2021, that led to a student being sent home incorrectly as a walker instead of properly being placed on a school bus, the student’s correct form of transportation.

There is uncertainty as to how the student wound up with the students who walk home from school. Regardless, the student should have been identified by school staff as being in the wrong dismissal location.

To prevent any similar occurrences from taking place in the future, Prine Principal Greg Sander and his staff have immediately implemented the following protocols:

  • A staff member will be stationed at each bus to assist in monitoring and overseeing bus riders.
  • Kindergartners are being retagged to identify walkers.
  • In areas where walkers are dismissed, students in older grades are being physically separated from students in younger grades to help staff ensure that only designated walkers are dismissed through the walkers’ dismissal locations.

The staff at Prine Elementary and the School District are committed to the safety of all students and staff and will strictly enforce and follow proper dismissal procedures and protocols.

But Jones says the damage is done.

"We don’t trust the school anymore. Things that parents should never have to worry about when sending their kids to school, happened to me and my family," said Jones.