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School bus driver drives away with kids still on bus

9:54 AM, Oct 31, 2013   |    comments
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ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. -- The mother of a middle-schooler is saying that what happened to her daughter on the school bus Tuesday is "bizarre," and she wants the driver arrested.

The school bus driver, for some reason, drove off with the girl Tuesday afternoon.

And the mom had to get into her car and chase the school bus, and call 911, to get her daughter back.

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

Rodgers said that on Tuesday afternoon, her 12 year old daughter did not get off of her school bus when it reached her stop.

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 jumped into her car and 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 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.

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

Rodgers wants the Sheriff to arrest Foster.

"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."

There may or may not have been any intent to kidnap, but Rodgers is going to ask the Sheriff to file some sort of criminal charges against Foster.

11Alive News was not able to reach anyone with the Rockdale County School System Wednesday night, but Rodgers said she's been told Foster has been suspended while the incident is under investigation.

Wednesday morning, another driver pulled up to the bus stop to pick up Rodgers' daughters.

"It really makes you wonder," Rodgers said, "even if they're doing background checks on them, do they do them every six months? Or every year? What do we really know about these people that we entrust our children with?"

WXIA

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