EAGLE MOUNTAIN — A mother said she is traumatized after her 7-year-old daughter was abandoned in an unfamiliar neighborhood by an Alpine School District bus driver.
Rhonda Bromley, Alpine School District spokeswoman, said the driver violated district policy and has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident.
Amber Hobdy said her daughter Kya, a second-grade student at Hidden Hollow Elementary School, normally walks to and from school. But on Friday she boarded a bus to go to a friend's house. She said the bus driver recognized that Kya wasn't supposed to be riding the bus, stopped along her route and told Kya to walk home.
"It was terrifying for her," Hobdy said. "It was in a neighborhood my daughter's never been in."
Hobdy said she had walked away from her phone for less than a minute and missed two calls from her daughter. When she saw the missed calls, she assumed it was just Kya calling to confirm that she was going to her friend's house, but knew something was wrong as soon as Kya answered the phone.
Hobdy said Kya was in tears, unsure of where she was and repeating that she was scared and that the bus driver had been mean to her. Hobdy said initially she was confused and assumed there had been some sort of miscommunication.
"When I realized that this really did happen, I was dumbfounded," Hobdy said. "Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone drop off a 7-year-old?"
Kya thought she recognized her aunt's church building and walked to it, meeting up with her mother there. The area was about a mile from the school and a mile from the child's home.
Hobdy said it's frustrating for her to think what could have happened if Kya hadn't taken a cellphone to school with her, something she frequently forgets.
"I'm grateful she had her cellphone on her," Hobdy said. "I like her to take it, she's just forgetful."
Hidden Hollow principal Tom Tillman said he was told Monday that Alpine School District officials had met with the bus driver and were investigating the incident. He said transportation policies, routes and staff are handled by a central district office but he planned on reaching out to Kya's parents to hear their version of the events.
Bromley said district policy is to allow students to board a bus that is not assigned to them if they have a note from their parents. But with or without a note, she said once a student is on a bus they can only be let out at an official bus stop or back at the school.
Bromley said the bus driver initially pulled over to speak with Kya's mother on the phone but when the call went to voice mail she told Kya to exit the bus, contrary to policy.
"Never should a child just be put off on the side of the road," she said. "When things like this happen, we will investigate. We will take appropriate personnel action to make sure this does not happen again."
Hobdy said she spoke with the bus driver, who defended what she had done. Hobdy also said she spoke with a representative of the Alpine School District, who apologized for what had happened and told her the driver had violated policy.
She said she feels confident the district will take the right steps to address the incident. She doesn't necessarily think the driver should be fired, but action should be taken to prevent similar incident from occurring in the future.
"This cannot happen again," Hobdy said.
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