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School bus driver fired after driving off with 12-year-old girl | Education

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School bus driver fired after driving off with 12-year-old girl

ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. -- The driver of a Rockdale County school bus who drove off with a 12-year-old girl on board, without the permission of the girl's mother, was fired on Thursday.

The mother of that middle-schooler is saying that what happened to her daughter on the school bus Tuesday is "bizarre," and she wants the driver arrested.

The mom, Cheryl Rogers, said Thursday night she is relieved the driver was fired.

The spokesperson for the Rockdale County School System wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon, "...the driver violated our normal operating procedures and protocols. This person is no longer driving in our district."

It was on Tuesday afternoon when the school bus driver, for some reason, drove off with the girl instead of dropping her off.

Rodgers jumped into her car and chased the school bus to get her daughter back.

"You don't just take someone's child, and take 'em wherever you want," Rodgers said Wednesday. "It was just bizarre."

The bus stop is right across the street from their house, in Rockdale County.

The girl's 13 year old sister rides the same bus, and Rodgers said that when the 13 year old got off the bus and walked into the house she told her that the 12 year old was still on the bus and the driver wanted to talk with Rodgers.

Rodgers walked out the front door, and, "I look, and the bus is gone."

And her 12 year old was still on it.

The 12 year old said Wednesday that the driver had asked her to stay on the bus. "She said, 'Would you mind if you stayed on the bus?'"

"She never had my consent for my daughter to stay on the bus," Rodgers said, "it's not up to her to make that decision."

Rodgers sped up Salem Road, looking for the school bus, calling 911.

"I'm sure I was in a frenzy, but I told them, I said, 'I believe my daughter's just been kidnapped.' And that's really, honestly, how I felt."

Rodgers was able to flag down a Rockdale County Sheriff's Deputy a few minutes later, and by then they both had the school bus in sight.

The deputy pulled in behind the bus and stopped it, two miles from the Rodgers' home, away from its route.

He found Rodgers' daughter and other children on the bus, and they were all okay.

"I'm not even sure where the bus was going, and why she was so far off-route," Rodgers said.

And the driver's explanation?

"She just proceeded to tell one story after the next, and none of them made any sense," Rodgers said. "One was that she may have alluded to knowing me personally, like it was just mis-communication. One was, 'We were dropping her off at her grandmother's house,' and I said, 'My parents actually live with me.'"

Rodgers said the driver at one point also claimed she needed the girl to write down descriptions of all the bus stops along with their addresses in order to give the list to a substitute driver who is scheduled to take over the route for a week, and she wanted the girl to guide the substitute through the route. Then, Rodgers said, the driver said she was the substitute driver.

"She was just making 'em up as she went," the 12 year old said.

"None of it made any sense and it really rattled my cage, I was so concerned that I wouldn't see my child again," Rodgers said.

Was it a kidnapping? The Sheriff's office decided initially -- no, it's a school system matter.

The Sheriff's Office identified the driver as Jennifer Cornelia Foster, 50, of Conyers.

Now that Foster is no longer with the school system, 11Alive News is trying to reach her, personally, to learn how she describes what happened.

Rodgers said Foster has driven her daughters on that route for two years without incident, until now.

"I have every intent to press charges, criminal [charges], absolutely," Rodgers said.

And she has already had a long talk with her daughter.

"My mom, she was saying I'm too spontaneous, 'cause I am. I'm very spontaneous. She said you can't just go off with someone that you don't even know like that until they have permission by my mom or a trusted adult. And then the police officer, he was saying that even though the bus driver was my bus driver for two years, I could still be 'gettable.' He was saying you did not know her intentions, meaning like she could have kidnapped me, she could have killed me, whatever. I was thinking like, wow, that could have been, that was really serious."

Even if there was no intent to kidnap, Rodgers is going to ask the Sheriff to file some sort of criminal charges against Foster.

Here is the full statement from the spokesperson for Rockdale County Public Schools:

Rockdale County Public Schools requires formal background and reference checks on all potential employees, not just bus drivers. We have strict protocols and procedures that our drivers must adhere to and we take swift and appropriate action when these are not followed. Preliminary findings of our investigation of this incident do conclude that the driver violated our normal operating procedures and protocols. This person is no longer driving in our district.

Rodgers read the statement and said she is concerned about how closely the school system monitors drivers to make sure they continue to be fit for duty after they are hired, to try to prevent possible incidents, not just react to them.

"Honestly, I think that's the key word, 'monitoring.' It's not just about them knowing what they did before they were hired, but how about three months from now, six months from now, like what's going on?.... Because there are a lot of good ones out there. We've just got to sort out the good ones from the bad.... And they know it's very easy to manipulate children, especially in an environment where they're comfortable. And most children are abducted by someone that they knew and felt comfortable going with. And clearly, in this particular instance, my daughter felt quite comfortable, thinking nothing of it, 'It's a school official, sure, I'll help her out.'"

There is on-board video. 11Alive News has requested it.

"Do these parents [of other children on board] even know that their children were actually off of the designated route with this driver? And for how long? And where was she headed? If the Sheriff hadn't have stopped her, where was she headed?.... Had I taken a moment of hesitation, this outcome could have been totally different. Children go missing all the time."

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