Sleeping Autistic Child Left On School Bus For Hours

LAKELAND, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — An autistic child was left sleeping on a Lakeland school bus for several hours.

The incident occurred Monday when bus driver Richard McMullen finished his morning routes before returning the bus to his residence. However, he failed to check the bus properly in accordance with school transportation procedure.

Had he done so, he would have found the sleeping 6-year-old Cole Morton, who should have been dropped off at Combee Elementary School earlier that day.

The whereabouts of the child were not known until McMullen boarded the bus for his afternoon shift, Bay News 9 reported.

“He’s got all these problems,” Latisha Morton, Cole’s mother, said to school officials who informed her of her son’s absence from his first grade class, according to Bay News 9. “You best find him because I put him on the school bus.”

Morton allegedly received no apologies for the mistake.

The school district does offer buses for students with special needs. Cole, though, was on what the district refers to as an inclusion bus, which integrates special needs students with other students their age.

Rob Davis, director of transportation operations for Polk County Schools, told CBS Tampa the policy of checking buses thoroughly is in place for all of the bus routes they offer.

A full-scale investigation into the matter has been launched and is anticipated to conclude by the end of the week.

McMullen, who is employed by the school district by contract, could face serious consequences for his actions, or lack thereof.

“We will take disciplinary actions based on the severity (of the transgression), and they will be significant,” Davis said. “It could be anything from suspension to termination. That’s where we are now.”

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