BOWIE, Md. (WJLA) — Giggling and playing with her toy car, three-year-old Symphani Bracey is back home safe.
But for two hours Thursday, her fearful family had no idea where she was.
“We were frantic for two hours,” said her grandmother Mary Bracey.
What should have been a routine bus ride home, turned into an after-school ordeal.
“She wasn’t here, ” said her grandfather Earl Bracey. “So I don’t know what to think, where she should be.”
“Very, very frightening,” Mary Bracey added. “My daughter called and said they couldn’t find her.”
Symphani, who has special needs and is asthmatic, attends an early childhood center in Bowie, Md.
A bus was supposed to drop her at a sitter’s house, near her Lanham home, around 12:30 Thursday.
But she never showed.
Her mother and other family members began making frantic calls.
“She called the bus depot to find out where she was,” Mary Bracey said. “They didn’t know, they said she didn’t get on the bus. She called the school, they said they put her on the bus.”
It turns out, the entire time, Symphani was on her bus.
“Basically the bus driver got lost and he couldn’t find her home,” said Sherrie Johnson, a Prince George’s County Schools Spokesperson. “He should have called in sooner to let someone know there was an issue.”
The Bracey’s say the driver instead took the rest of the youngsters on the bus to their homes before dropping off Symphani at a bus lot— not her school.
That action angers and upsets Earl Bracey.
“Whoever the driver was, he didn’t call back and say, ‘hey look, I’m lost,’ or something like that. Where do I go?”
School protocols say the driver, who has been repremanded, should have called in for help.
“I was thinking something had happened to her,” Mary Bracey said quietly. “They having an accident. We were scared.”
The Bracey’s say an assistant foreman, familiar with their neighborhood, brought the three-year-old girl home, after two tense hours.
Johnson notes that Symphani was always under adult supervision, and was never left alone.
The Prince George’s School District issued a statement, which says in part:
“We deeply regret the error and want to assure the school community we are taking measure to make sure our students continue to be transported in a safe and timely manner.”
Johnson says school principals are being told to review drop-off policies and procedures with their bus drivers.
The Bracey’s say they may drive Symphani to the center, at least for the next week or two.
“When they can’t find somebody, address it right there, don’t wait until the last minute,” Earl Bracey said. “I’m not happy the way it went down. I’m happy that she’s here.”