On Tuesday, Melanie Rain was waiting for her 6-year-old son, Calvin, who was riding for the first time this school year from Southwest Elementary School in Lakeland. Rain said she waited for her son during a rainstorm, but the bus kept going instead of stopping, WTSP reported.
"I was terrified," Rain told WFLA. "I tried to stop the bus driver, but she kept going."
An hour later, Rain got a call from her mother: Calvin was home and safe.
The boy apparently got off at the first bus stop, instead of his proper stop, which was fourth on the route and nearly two miles from his home, WTSP reported. Calvin told his mother the driver spoke Spanish and pointed to the door at the first stop, so the boy got off the vehicle, the television station reported.
Calvin walked in several directions and then realized he did not know how to get home. So, he stuck out his thumb to hitchhike, WFLA reported.
"I thought I was at my neighborhood, but I wasn't," Calvin told the television station.
Rain said Calvin told her, "I put my thumb up, and this lady stopped and helped me," WTSP reported.
A woman in a tan van picked up Calvin and dropped him off after he was able to communicate where he lived, the television station reported.
Rain was relieved but upset.
"What if a sexual predator had picked him up or something?" Rain told WFLA.
The driver, a 14-year veteran of the transportation department, was placed on administrative leave following the mishap, according to Polk County Schools spokeswoman Rachel Pleasant.
"We are grateful that our student is safe, and we apologize for any distress this incident brought to him and his family,” Pleasant said in a statement. “We will determine whether policies and procedures were followed."
Rain said she would drive Calvin to and from school from now on. The boy seemed happy with that decision.
"I don't want to get lost again," Calvin told WFLA.