Bus Driver Who Left 5-Year-Old Waterbury Student at Wrong Stop Terminated

A Waterbury mother is grateful to have her son home safe after a school bus driver left the child nearly two miles from home and the bus company said they have fired the driver.

Samantha Paneto said her 5-year-old son was dropped off near the Cheshire line instead of at his usual bus stop on Monday afternoon.

"According to my son, the bus driver said 'I can't find your stop, you need to get off here,' and left him two miles away from my house," Paneto said.

Instead of leaving the Generali Elementary School kindergartner at the corner of Oldham and Manchester avenues in Waterbury, just steps from his home, Paneto and Waterbury School officials said the bus driver dropped the boy off at the last stop of the route, Byam Road, which borders Cheshire.

Paneto's son wore a bracelet indicating that he shouldn't be dropped off at all unless there is a parent there waiting for him.

"Those students are wearing these bands. That means they don't get dropped off unless there is a parent there waiting for them," Robert Brenker, interim chief operating officer, chief of staff and the director of personnel for education for Waterbury schools, said.

Paneto also said her son also had identification that included his name and address.

"He had a name tag around his neck and that tag had his name, his school bus number, our address, and the bus stop location." Paneto said.

Bus company Durham School Services released a statement saying, in part:

It is our policy to have kindergartners and first-grade students to be met by an adult, and in this circumstance it did not occur. We are taking this matter very seriously; the driver has been terminated.

Waterbury school administrators said a Cheshire police officer who was overseeing construction near the area where the boy was dropped off spotted the child and brought him to Waterbury police.

"He told me that he was a very confident kid. He had his mind set on walking home even though he had no idea where our house was," Paneto said.

While the bus company now agrees to drop Paneto's son in front of his house, mom finds it hard to shake off such a bumpy ride.

"As a parent, that's always going to stay in the back of my head," Paneto said.

Administrators said they've been using this bus company for more than three years and this driver was experienced.

They are also holding a meeting tonight to discuss what occurred.

Waterbury Police also said they are investigating to see if any criminal charges can be filed.

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