The Gray-New Gloucester school district is meeting with all of its bus drivers because of an incident in which a 5-year-old kindergartner was left at a bus stop Monday with no adult present to escort her home.

The girl wound up walking alone on a busy street on the way to her aunt’s house 1½ miles away.

The girl’s mother, Liana Thoits, said Wednesday that she is not satisfied with the district’s response. She wants the bus driver fired for violating the district’s policy of never leaving kindergartners unless a parent or guardian is present.

Victoria Burns, superintendent of School Administrative District 15, which serves Gray and New Gloucester, said the incident boiled down to human error. She would not identify the driver or say whether any disciplinary action had been taken.

“There was a meeting and there will be another meeting held, and they are having a district bus drivers meeting so that everyone understands that this is our first priority,” Burns said.

Thoits, a single parent, spends most of the day attending Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and working with special-needs children in Scarborough.

At the beginning of the school year, she arranged to have her daughter, Cadence Norris, picked up at home at the end of Frost Road, off Center Road, each morning and dropped off at Thoits’ sister’s house on Tami Trail, about 1½ miles away, after school.

Monday was the first early release day of the school year in SAD 15, and Thoits said she made arrangements with the Russell School to have her daughter dropped off at the home of Thoits’ brother on Lawrence Road.

Instead, the bus driver left her daughter at Frost Road, even though no parent or guardian was there to accompany her. The driver then called the district’s bus garage to report that she had dropped off the child without a parent in sight. The district contacted Thoits, who was waiting for her daughter at her brother’s home.

Meanwhile, Cadence walked the quarter-mile along Frost Road to her house. When she found no one there, she started walking the 1½ miles to her aunt’s home along busy Center Road. People who knew Cadence saw her walking and, despite her reluctance, convinced the terrified girl to get into their car to be taken to her mother.

After about 45 minutes of missed connections and searching for her daughter, Thoits was reunited with Cadence. “By the time I got to her, I was a mess,” Thoits said.

She said the outcome could have been much worse, and the incident represented her worst nightmares about public school transportation.

Burns said the bus driver has extensive experience working for the district, which picks up students on 16 bus routes and has a fleet of eight vans.

Thoits said the bus driver was back on the job Tuesday. She said Wednesday that she was still waiting to hear back from the school district in response to the incident.

“If I dropped a client off at the end of a driveway, I would lose my job and never work with a child again,” she said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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