Child with autism left on Lake County school bus, taken for ride

5-year-old boy ends up at wrong school 12 miles away


LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Bus monitors failed to notice an autistic child was still on board a Lake County school bus before taking the child on a trip to another school, a school district spokeswoman said.

On Thursday, Carlos Lana, 5, ended up at the wrong school. The young boy was supposed to be taken to Sawgrass Bay Elementary in Clermont, but he ended up 12 miles away at Clermont Elementary.

"Scared. Obviously, he didn't want to go to school this morning," said the boy's father, Juan Lana.

District spokeswoman Sherri Owens told News 6 when the boy arrived at his school, he did not leave his bus.

A bus monitor was busy helping a student in a wheelchair off the rear of the bus, while the bus driver allowed other students to board the bus in front.

Owens said adults on bus failed to check thoroughly before allowing other students to board and taking off to another school.

"Common sense. Finish something before starting something else. Make sure that everyone leaves the bus before allowing other students to go in," said the boy's mother, Graciela Justiniano. "Most kids with autism, they're non-verbal. They're not able to tell you, 'I'm still on the bus.'"

Carlos was still dressed in his school T-shirt when rode to the next school without any adult noticing.

The family demanded answers from the principal who promised instead of one check by a bus monitor, a Sawgrass Bay Elementary School teacher assistant will board the bus and double-check to visually make sure each kid got off the bus.

"You need to provide a system, a procedure, that guarantees the safety not only of my son, who has special needs, but the safety of all the kids so no other parent has to go through this," said Lana, who hopes the system of double checking will be implemented districtwide, especially for special needs buses.