Girl, 5, left outside empty house for 2 hours in cold after school bus mix-up

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 1:16 AM CST
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VALPARAISO, Ind. (WLS) - A 5-year-old Indiana girl waited outside her empty home for two hours in below freezing temperatures after being put on a bus to go home from school instead of to daycare.

Tabatha Schweller says her 5-year-old daughter, Raelynne, attends kindergarten at Washington Township Elementary and typically goes to daycare afterward at Little U Academy, both in Valparaiso, Indiana. But last Friday, the girl was taken by bus to her home, where no one was, and left outside in the cold for two hours.

Schweller says she found out about the incident when she went to pick up Raelynne from daycare, only to be told the girl wasn’t there.

“She opened the door and didn’t even look at me or say anything. I said, ‘Where’s Raelynne?’ She said, ‘She’s not here.’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me my baby’s missing?’” Schweller said.

The panicked mother raced home, frantically calling her family, but found her daughter when she arrived at the house.

“Her backpack and coat were sitting by the front door, and I was screaming for her name, and she was like ‘Mommy,’” Schweller said.

The mother says Raelynne had been alone outside the house for two hours in below freezing temperatures. Thankfully, she found shelter in Schweller’s boyfriend’s work vehicle.

“She was shivering. I had to take her to the hospital,” Schweller said.

East Porter County School Corporation officials said the girl had a substitute teacher that day, who put her on the bus home instead of to daycare.

Little U Academy said in a statement that when they went to pick up the 5-year-old at school, she was not at the designated location. Officials said their staff asked about the girl’s whereabouts but were told by school staff she was “not a pick up today.”

Schweller believes the school, daycare and bus driver are all at fault. She plans to pursue legal action to get justice for her daughter and so this never happens to any other parent again.

“Three people failed her, and it could have cost her her life,” she said.

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