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Updated: Friday, 07 Sep 2012, 7:00 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 06 Sep 2012, 5:01 PM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A 5-year-old Grand Rapids Public Schools student was dropped off at the wrong bus stop Tuesday, left to try to find her way home from a strange neighborhood.
According to her mother, 5-year-old Aniya Herring ran across busy Hall Street SE with her hands over her eyes.
"She was scared," said Aniya's mother, Bianca Gordon. "She didn't want to get hit, but she wanted to go across the street, and I can't even imagine what she was going through in however long period of time she was there by herself."
Gordon told 24 Hour News 8 she learned from witnesses that Aniya was about "an inch away" from being hit by a motorcycle.
"She hasn't been on the bus since," said Gordon.
Gordon went on to say that she is "terrified" to put Aniya back on the school bus after the kindergarten student was left on her own Tuesday afternoon.
"She says, 'Mom, did I do anything wrong?' I said, 'Aniya, you didn't do anything wrong. You did exactly what you're supposed to do: Get up and go to school and get on the bus and follow directions from adults,'" said Gordon.
Gordon said it's the adults who messed up.
"When the bus finally pulled up at about 4:30, a little girl was standing there and my boyfriend's like, 'That's not Aniya.' The bus driver said, 'That's Aniya,'" said Gordon.
"I just can't believe this could happen," Gordon added. "I couldn't believe it could happen and all this time I'm waiting at the bus stop like a parent's supposed to be. I'm waiting there for my daughter. She's somewhere lost and they're saying that this other girl is my daughter and it wasn't."
Dean Transportation runs the buses for GRPS. The drivers are supposed to check off students' names as they get on and off the bus to make sure they're getting off at the right stop.
In this case, the driver didn't do that.
"Kids should not just be allowed to get off the bus at any random place by theirself," said Gordon. "You should have a parent to guide them off the bus. Don't just let these kids off the bus. They're little kids!"
Gordon said she found Aniya back at her school, Campau Park Elementary School. She said her daughter was only there because two strangers, two young women, saw Aniya running across the street, picked her up and put her in their car.
Sisters Alante and Elantra Malone said they were shocked when they spotted Aniya on their drive home on busy Lafayette Street.
"She was in the middle of the street," said Elantra. "Cars did not stop at all."
Elantra jumped out of her car and scooped the little girl up.
"There was a motorcycle and a car. I ran in between those and grabbed her and almost got hit," Elantra said. So we both almost got hit."
The two are relieved that nothing more serious happened.
"She could've been dead, raped, kidnapped," said Alante.
And, like Aniya's mother, they wondered how she was allowed to get off the bus at the wrong stop.
"When they put her off the bus, why they didn't make sure her parent was there?" said Alante.
"They don't know me, period," said Gordon. "They have no idea who this little girl is and who she belongs to, and they had to take responsibility to get her. To go find -- basically to trace steps and tracks just to get her back to me when I specifically sent her to a place where they're supposed to know where she goes," said Gordon.
Gordon said the two women drove Aniya up and down Lafayette Avenue asking people if they knew Aniya or Gordon. Eventually, she told 24 Hour News 8, a girl in a group of people outside of a home on Lafayette Avenue recognized Aniya as someone she went to school with at Campau Park. The women then took Aniya back to the school.
Gordon said she called the school when Aniya didn't show up, and staff there told her the girl was at school. Gordon said she just assumed that her daughter missed the bus until she got there, and met Aniya's rescuers outside the school doors.
"[One of the strangers] says, 'I found your daughter at Hall and Lafayette.' And I had to catch myself kind of like, 'Hold on, this couldn't happen," said Gordon.
The president of Dean Transportation didn't mince words about the incident -- admitting the driver screwed up.
'We're not going to make any excuses because we understand our great responsibility," said Kellie Dean, president of Dean Transportation. "But the first days of schools are actually busy. There's a lot of brand new students that you have to get to know every single one of them -- particularly the young ones -- but our procedure in place and the driver has always followed it."
Dean said his company provides transportation for GRPS and nearly all the other schools in Kent County.
24 Hour News 8 learned another aspect to this story is that Campau Park is a year-round school. GRPS officials said that during the first three weeks, Aniya would have gotten off at the first bus stop, but when the regular school year started on Tuesday, the route changed and Aniya's stop went from first to third on
24 Hour News 8 was told the driver involved is a 15-year-veteran of Dean Transportation who was described as "professional." That driver has been suspended with pay pending an investigation.
Dean went on to tell 24 Hour News 8 that they are reviewing their policies to make sure everyone is aware of them and that they protect the safety of students.
"It was a human error," said Dean. "It was an accident that happened, but again, it is our responsibility to go back and review all of our procedures to be sure that we're doing obviously the best that we can."
Dean said the company has had many conversations with Gordon and with her mother about the situation and have apologized. He vowed that Aniya would not be let off the bus without a responsible parent there to meet her at her stop.
John Helmholdt, a Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesperson, told 24 Hour News 8 they did have a meeting with Dean Transportation on Wednesday to talk about issues with the bus service.
Helmholdt said the district apologizes to Aniya's mother and that it is reviewing procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"I think you had a serious of unfortunate situations. First and foremost, the driver did not follow the procedure," said Helmholdt. "We are fully aware of the seriousness of the situation."
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