It was a phone call yesterday that a Maui mother was not expecting.
It was from a paramedic saying he found the woman’s 5-year-old daughter walking along a busy road by herself. But the little girl was supposed to be at school.
The woman called KHON2, after she says the school did not explain how they let her daughter wander away.
Rose Chichton describes the moment she found out her daughter was found by paramedics walking down the road alone, “I dropped to the floor. It’s like every parents worst nightmare. You don’t want to hear that the paramedic has your kid, and that they found them on the side of the road.”
It all started at Nahienaena Elementary School on Maui. Crichton’s husband was running late to pick up their 5-year-old daughter from school. She was brought to wait in the cafeteria with other students.
But before her father could come pick her up, his daughter followed a friend onto a school bus; one she shouldn’t have been allowed to board.
Rose Crichton said she doesn’t understand how this could happen, “Now I don’t know if there’s somebody monitoring that or what or who looks after the cafeteria but she was able to leave the cafeteria and for the bus without a bus pass.”
So without a bus pass, the 5-year-old was taken on the bus route from the school to a neighborhood over two and a half miles away. One she was familiar with being that her aunty lived there.
But her aunty wasn’t home. So the she started to walk home. Just as she got onto the main road, a passing ambulance spotted her and stopped to ask if she was okay.
The girl had memorized her mothers phone number and recognized the paramedics badges from a recent field trip. Paramedics called Rose Chrichton at work “As soon as I could make a call and come to find out it was a paramedic and they told me they had her, she was ok.”
As soon as the girl’s father found out what had happened, he rushed to meet the paramedics at the Boys and Girls club nearby to get his daughter. She was ok. But according to her mom she was shaken up. Her mom spent the morning at the school searching for answers. But after getting nowhere, she contacted KHON2 for help. Officials declined to comment.
Moments later Crichton got a call from the principal, “I just got a call right before you had called from the principal saying that she talked to a few of the teachers, and that they’re coming up with new game plans of where the student especially the kindergarten students need to go, to where they need to be designated, and sent to basically after school because the cafeteria obviously is not as safe as we maybe thought.”
KHON2 reached out to the Department of Education, which said in a statement, “The child was found safe, however, it has prompted action by Princess Nahienaena Elementary School officials. Discussions have occurred with the child’s parents.”
Roberts Hawaii the company that operates the school bus that allowed the girl on without a pass, also provided a statement today, saying, “We were shocked when we learned what happened, and extend our deepest apologies to the student and her family. This is a clear violation of our safety procedures, and the driver involved has been suspended and removed from the route. We are also taking immediate steps to avoid a recurrence. As parents ourselves, we can relate to her family’s concerns, and again, deeply regret the incident.
Rose Crichton says she’s glad someone is taking responsibility, but says something needs to change, “It’s something simple, a simple mistake like that and anything could happen to her, a car could have hit her, somebody could have picked her up.”
Rose Crichton kept her daughter out of school on Friday.
She recommended to the school’s principal that students who aren’t enrolled in after-school programs be brought to the office instead of the cafeteria.