Two charged with leaving special needs student on bus -- twice

- A Polk County school bus driver and attendant are both under arrest after deputies say they left a special-needs child on a bus, forcing him to hitchhike 30 miles home -- not just once, but twice.

Deputies say, on two separate occasions within one week, driver Gale Brown and attendant Gwendolyn Simmons dropped off students at Our Children's Academy, parked the bus in Lake Wales, and did not notice the 13-year-old was asleep near the back of the bus.

They allegedly did not check the bus as they were supposed to, and even admitted having a student shut off the child-reminder alarm system. 

That button is at the back of the bus and is there to make sure they check the bus, front to back.

Bus video shared by the sheriff's office showed the boy eventually waking up -- once leaving through the front door and once having to climb through an emergency exit window.

Both times, deputies say, the boy hitchhiked and walked to his home, about 30 miles away in Davenport.

"This was entirely avoidable," Sheriff Grady Judd wrote in a press release about the arrests.  "The Polk County School Board is committed to keeping our children safe, equipping school buses with the latest technology to ensure children are not left behind.  These two suspects completely disregarded all safety measures, and endangered a 13-year-old special needs student -- there is absolutely no excuse for this type of neglect."

Brown, 51, and Simmons, 57, are each charged with negligent child abuse.


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