RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio – Parents of a 4-year-old student left stranded on a school bus for hours are furious and demanding answers as to why they were never notified their son was missing.
The Richmond Heights Local Schools pre-kindergartner, Xavier Smith, boarded the bus around 8 a.m. His parents say he was not discovered until minutes before 1 p.m. Monday.
“He wet himself because he was scared; he didn’t know who he could find to help him get off of that bus,” said Xavier’s dad, Theo Smith. “He didn’t know how to get off of the bus or where he even was.”
Xavier’s mother, Citeria Frazier, told WJW she received a call from the principal at 12:48 p.m. stating “we found your son.”
“I just couldn’t stop crying because the whole time I’m just thinking like when he woke up and didn’t see anybody, the first thing he probably did was call for his mommy and I wasn’t there,” explained Frazier.
Richmond Heights Local Schools superintendent Dr. Renee Willis says most of the districts’ school buses have cameras; however, Xavier’s bus has none. Willis says the district will be adding cameras to all buses.
A meeting is planned Wednesday to determine the next disciplinary steps for the bus driver. Willis says the same driver was reprimanded in 2014 for letting a kindergarten student off the bus at the wrong stop.
Willis issued the following written statement about the incident:
“As the superintendent my heart aches for what this 4 year old student endured. No child should have to experience this, but particularly a Pre-Kindergarten child. I am thankful that he is safe and have offered to his mother any help that would assist him in being comfortable coming back to school again.”
“I want my son to be back comfortable going to school,” said Smith. “I want him to be able to learn so that he can grow to be the adult that I want him to be successful.”
Willis says it’s standard protocol for parents to be notified when students are absent. However, Xavier was found before the attendance calls and processes were completed for the day.