4-year-old boy with special needs left alone on school bus

LAVEEN, AZ - A 4-year-old boy with special needs was left alone on a school bus Monday afternoon after two different school employees on the bus overlooked the boy who had fallen asleep.

Jennifer Ponce said her son, Floyd Smith, got on the school bus around 11:30 a.m. Monday to attend the preschool program at Laveen Elementary School.

At 1 p.m., the school left her a voicemail informing her that her son never arrived to class, 30 minutes after class started.

Around 1:26 p.m., she received a second voicemail saying her son had been found after being left on the school bus.

When she called looking for answers, Ponce said the school district didn't know many details.

"I still don't know how long he was on the bus," said Ponce. "It's hard to imagine someone that someone would leave a child on the bus for even a split second or forget about him," said Ponce.

Ponce said her son is in special education for speech and other problems and unable to provide any answers himself.

Karen Menge, a spokesperson for Laveen Elementary School District, told ABC15 the district was still investigating how the bus driver and the bus aide missed the boy.

He was found on the bus at the district's school bus yard, about 2 miles from the boy's school, by a third employee. The boy was still strapped in his seat, similar to a car seat.

The high temperature in Phoenix on Monday reached 94 degrees.

After he was found, the boy was taken to class and his mother was called.

 "I feel like he was neglected. If this was me – if someone saw me get out of the car to walk in to get gas or to walk in and grab something at the grocery store, my son would not be with me today. I would be in jail and he would be in CPS [Child Protective Services] custody," said Ponce.

Menge said it's still not clear how long the boy was left alone.

"Every procedure and protocol we are revisiting just to make sure that everything is being followed and also to see if there any changes that need to be made," said Menge.

Menge said she was not sure if there was surveillance video on the bus.

She also did not know if the bus driver or student aide had been disciplined or if they were back at work.

The Department of Public Safety told ABC15 it's investigating the incident to determine if any action should be taken regarding the driver's license to operate a bus.

While Ponce waits for answers, she said it's hard to imagine what could have happened to her son if he hadn't been found sooner.

"I don't want to think about it. Something really could have happened to him. He could have wandered off the bus, got ran over or God forbid he could have died inside that bus,"  said a tearful Ponce.

Ponce said she planned to meet with the school district on Wednesday morning to get more details about what happened.

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