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5-year old girl left on bus; driver faces firing

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A bus driver in the Parkway School District might be fired after leaving a five-year old special education student on a bus after his work day had ended.

Natalie Fogle attends preschool at Sorrento Springs school; officials believe she was alone on the bus for about 30 minutes Monday afternoon before she was found scared and hot but otherwise unharmed on the bus. The bus had been parked at the district's transportation headquarters in west St. Louis County.

"We're grateful that Natalie is safe," Parkway spokesman Paul Tandy said. "At the same time, this is absolutely inexcusable.

"We're angry and deeply concerned that any student would be left on a bus alone for even one minute."

The driver's name was not released, but Tandy said the man has driven for the district for two years, and worked for another district for eight years prior to that.

District officials will recommend to the Board of Education that he be fired. "He was just distraught," Tandy said. "He thought he had delivered the child home."

Natalie's mother, Kelly Fogle, said her daughter, who is developmentally delayed, normally arrives home around 3:15 p.m. She's the only student who gets off at the stop near her home.

Around 3:45 p.m., Fogle received a call from her 17-year-old son who was concerned that Natalie was not yet home. Kelly Fogle called the bus service dispatcher and police. Tandy said district officials were at the bus within minutes.

Tandy said the girl was scared and initially refused to get off the bus. District officials gave her water, turned the bus on to run the air conditioner and sat with her until her parents arrived.

Fogle said the girl was sweaty and sunburned the high temperatures in St. Louis on Monday was 82 degrees, though Tandy said the air conditioner was running before the bus was turned off.

"Her hair was disheveled," Fogle said. "She was soaked with sweat. Her little T-shirt, you could have rung it out it was so wet."

The family took Natalie to St. Louis Children's Hospital for evaluation. "With the heat, the hospital said that if it would have been hotter or the duration would have been longer she could have suffocated," Fogle said.

Police did not return phone calls seeking comment but Fogle said officers told her criminal charges were unlikely. She said the family was considering a lawsuit.

Parkway drivers are required to walk through the bus to make sure no kids are left behind, Tandy said. That requirement was being driven home to them on Tuesday.

"They know one thing they have to do when they leave every day every single day is walk all the way to the back, look above and below the seats for anybody and anything," Tandy said.

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