First grader dropped off at bus stop 20 miles from home

Around the South

Chenell Worlds doesn’t understand how this happened.

The Tampa mom wants answers.

Her 6-year-old little girl, who attends Lee Magnet Elementary in Tampa, had two major bus mishaps during the first week of the new school year. 

“My heart just dropped basically. I thought I was gonna die when I heard my daughter was lost again,” Chenell told WFLA.

On Monday, the mom says her daughter rode the bus for the first time ever. After school, instead of returning to their home near Hillsborough Ave. and 40th Street, her daughter was dropped off in the wrong place.

The 6-year-old was 20 miles away in New Tampa…with strangers.

Chenell says two teenage girls saw her daughter and called for help.

“They were asking her, ‘do you live here? Do you live here?’ They walked her down one street. Then, she finally told them, ‘I don’t live here,’ and that’s when they called their mother and told her, ‘there’s a little girl, she doesn’t know where she lives,'” said the mom.

Tampa police arrived. Chenell was called and rushed across town to pick up her baby.

“She called out, ‘mommy!’ Then she ran to me. I hugged my baby tight,” said Chenell.

Turns out, a mix-up with the mom’s address was to blame. It didn’t come up in the system, according to Hillsborough County Schools. 

Then, on Tuesday, another problem happened.

As the child was boarding her bus after school, she got on the wrong one.

But, an alert, quick-thinking bus driver saved the day by recognizing the problem. That driver then immediately notified the transportation department.

“It’s unacceptable that this happened twice, and we didn’t want it to happen a third. We addressed this immediately,” said Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Schools.

School leaders tell WFLA they understand the mom’s frustration and have worked diligently to resolve the problem. They also plan to review the details of this case to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

“This is someone’s child. They want to know that we are taking her safety seriously, we need to take that moment to call them and let them know we’ve resolved the issue,” said Arja.

“We transport 83,000 students a day. Their safety is our main concern. We want this mom to feel good about this.”

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