MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Parents of a toddler diagnosed with autism want answers after her first day of school ended with a trip to the emergency room.
Nancy and Brian Hayes enrolled their daughter Lauren at South Godwin Early Childhood Center after she was diagnosed with moderate autism. Her first and only day in attendance was Aug. 26.
The Kent Intermediate School District runs the program and told News 8 she was referred as a Thornapple Kellogg student through its special education program.
Lauren seemed happy to ride the bus that morning, her parents said. But her arrival home was drastically different.
“The bus pulled up from the street and I could hear her screaming as I was walking to the bus,” Nancy Hayes told News 8.
She shared photos of her daughter with bite and scratch marks all over her body — a stark contrast from the sweet little girl posing for a first-day-of-school photo taken less than six hours earlier.
“We really don’t know what happened,” Nancy Hayes said. “She can’t tell us because she’s autistic and she went there to learn to communicate with us.”
“We took our daughter and put her on a bus and sent her to a school where we thought she was going to get the help she needed, and she comes home all beat up,” Brian Hayes added.
They believe the injuries came from another child based on the size of the bite marks.
The Hayes took their daughter to the emergency room and contacted law enforcement. They’re confident the incident either happened on the bus or at the school. After waiting more than a month for answers, they contacted News 8.
“Maybe another parent comes up and says something like one of their kids came home injured too because maybe she defended herself from what happened. Maybe we’re not the only parents that’ve been through (this),” Nancy Hayes explained.
While South Godwin Early Childhood Center is in Wyoming, the Wyoming Police Department told News 8 they referred the case to the Barry County Sheriff’s Office at the beginning of September after determining the injuries didn’t happen within city limits.
Lauren’s dad isn’t satisfied with that outcome. He said children are supposed to be restrained on the bus and believes her injuries were too extensive to happen in proper buckling.
News 8 called Thornapple Kellogg, which operates the buses Lauren rode to and from school, but had not heard back from the school district by Monday afternoon. The Hayes family said they were told there’s no video recording from inside the bus.
In the wake of the incident, the Hayes family is considering homeschooling and therapy for Lauren.
“I certainly don’t want to trust anybody after all that, you know? These are my children. They’re precious to me, the most precious thing I have besides my wife and I’m not gonna let anything happen to them,” Brian Hayes said. “Something does, I’m going to do everything I can to take care of it, to get them what they need because they don’t deserve that. Nobody’s children do.”
News 8 also called the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, the agency now handling the investigation, but did not hear back by 6 p.m. Monday.