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4-year-old left on Stafford bus on the way to school; charges pending, police say

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STAFFORD--A young child went missing for about an hour on Monday after the bus driver didn't drop the child at school.

A 4-year-old student at West Stafford Elementary School was marked as absent Monday morning after not showing up to school. Since the parents didn't call it in, the main office called to check his absence with the parents.

The child was found sleeping on his bus about an hour later after the school contacted the bus company. According to the Associated Press, the driver was allowed to take the bus home between trips and was at home when the school called looking for the child.

The child was safe, and finished the school day.

The Stafford Police, Stafford superintendent's office, M&J bus company and Department of Children and Families are all investigating the incident.

State Police say charges are pending, but were not more specific.

Parents in the district were "embarrassed" and outraged, but also surprised.

"Usually the school buses, the drivers usually do a random check through the seats to make sure the kids aren't there," Allison Gagon, the parent of an 11 year-old, said. "Normally the bus usually waits at the bus stop for a few seconds to make sure no kids get up and I'm kinda surprised he wasn't like 'hey, it's your stop or some,' other kids would mention to the bus driver that he's here."

Her 11 year-old daughter said she usually sees the bus driver inspect the seats before taking off.

"I've seen other bus drivers do it, like, our bus usually parks over there and I'm walking this way and I usually see bus drivers going back and forth across the buses and checking all the seats and everything," Jaclyn Peherson said.

Stafford Springs Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia Collins released the following statement on Friday afternoon:

The school district has safety protocols in place to protect our children, which were effective in this situation. When the school called M & J Bus Company, the bus company responded rapidly and quickly determined the whereabouts of the child, providing for the student’s safe return to the school. School district officials then met with the bus company to review the specific incident and the existing safety procedures. M&J Bus Company trains its drivers in safety protocols through training, safety messages, newsletters, notices, postings, during licensing testing and bi-annual proficiency training and testing by a DMV inspector. M&J Bus company has indicated its commitment to ensuring that every employee conducts a post-trip inspection to ensure there are no students on the bus at the conclusion of a bus run, so as to ensure the safety of our children. The district is cooperating in the investigation of this matter by state agencies.