SPOKANE, Wash. — [EDITOR’S NOTE: In an earlier video version of this story that appeared on KREM 2 newscasts, archive video was used of a North Idaho school bus driver who had nothing to do with this story. We regret the error.]
"It was the most terrifying thing in the whole world,” those were the words from a Spokane mother who, for close to an hour, had no idea where five-year-old daughter was.
Teresa Valliere’s daughter was let off at the wrong bus stop, something that shouldn't have happened.
In this situation, the school district claimed the bus driver was at fault. The driver shouldn't have let that girl off unless he knew a parent was at that stop.
Fortunately, an alert parent nearby saw that the girl was lost and took her to this school for help.
“Imagine...even just for less than an hour...having no idea where your little one was,” Valliere said.
For Valliere, that horror played out Monday afternoon.
"I can only imagine what those parents feel like who don't get to see their kids anymore. And I don't want that to happen to anybody, ever. I just want this to be solved," Valliere said.
Valliere's daughter, five-year-old April, had just started kindergarten. She had been riding the bus to and from school, but that all changed Monday.
"I asked the bus driver: where is April? And he did a walkthrough of the bus and said 'She is not on here,”
Valliere said she then frantically began calling the school and Durham, the bus company that contracts with Spokane public schools.
Valliere said the company told her they didn't know where April was and her school confirmed that she left on the right bus.
Valliere then went to her daughter's school and it wouldn't be until close to an hour later that she got this message:
"Hi Teresa, this is Steve Barnes, principal at Lidgerwood Elementary. I have your daughter April,”
It turned out that April was let off at the wrong stop, close to 10 blocks from where she should have been let off. An alert parent nearby saw that April appeared to be lost, and took her to Lidgerwood elementary.
"Only thing I thought of was that my baby's safe,” Valliere said. So how did this happen?
Spokane Public Schools said that for kindergartners, bus drivers are required to make sure a parent is present when the child is dropped off. In April’s case, it appears at the driver failed to do that.
Some SPS schools use technology that allows parents to track where their kids are on the bus. That wouldn't have mattered in this case, since Kindergartners are supposed to be released to parents.
"Just an apology from the bus driver, telling me that he's genuinely sorry for what he's done. That's all I want. For none of this to every happen to anyone ever again,” Valliere said.
Valliere said she's not taking any more risks and will be driving April to school now. She's just glad that a fellow parent saw her daughter and that the principal of a different school was able to contact her.
"I went to the school this morning, to Lidgerwood, and I thanked him personally and gave him the biggest hug I've ever given anybody in the whole world,”
Valliere says the bus company told her that the driver was placed on leave as they investigate what exactly happened.
That has not been confirmed by Durham.