A mom says she is furious after her young daughter was released from school early, put on a bus, and dropped off at home without her permission and without her being there.
Samantha Vallejo just so happens to be an intern at our station.
After a luncheon, Samantha got a voicemail from Houston Gateway Academy, a charter school in east Houston. Officials told Samantha to come pick her up early. When she called the school back to let them know she was on her way, the school said her daughter was not there and had no clue where she was.
"She tells me that the AC broke over at the church location where they teach the students and for all the parents to come pick up their kids," Samantha said.
She called to let them know she was on her way.
"I was told, ‘she's not here; we don't know where she's at'," she said.
Thinking seven-year-old Tomili was taken to the school's main campus, she called over there.
"She tells me, ‘She's not here. I put her on a bus. I don't know where she's at.' Well, where is my child? ‘Well, we put her on the Lozano bus and I believe she may have taken her home'," Samantha said. "There's nobody at my house. I'm the mother/father. There's nobody there, so why would they drop her off? She's seven years old; she doesn't have a key to get in."
After calling the school back, Samantha learned the bus driver left Tomili with a neighbor.
"Which is a man, not that he's a bad person, but he is a man," Samantha said. "He could've been a pedophile or a serial killer, I don't know. Just the fact that the left my child there without my consent is what really bothers me. It scared me."
Sergio Garza, the neighbor, said he heard honking coming from outside his home. When he opened the door, Tomili was standing there.
"The bus driver dropped her off here but didn't understand why," Garza said. "She just waved at me and said I'm gonna leave here there and she just took off."
Home alone and not feeling comfortable having his neighbor's seven-year-old daughter there, he took Tomili to his wife's hair salon and they immediately called Samantha.
Samantha is relieved her daughter is safe, but she doesn't understand why this even happened. Why did the teacher put Tomili on the bus without speaking to Samantha? Why did the bus driver drop Tomili off with a neighbor?
"Nobody knows what's going on. Nobody can tell me where my child is," Samantha said. "What am I supposed to do as a parent? My daughter is seven years old and nobody knows where she's at."
Keep in mind, independent buses are contracted by parents. Houston Gateway Academy does not provide transportation for students.
Wednesday night, the school sent us this statement in part:
"Houston Gateway Academy assumes no responsibility on decisions made by independent bus services; however, we will take a closer look at the guidelines from the independent buses that service out students to assist with the safeguards of the children. The bus service dropped off the student with the neighbor without the school's consent or knowledge per the student's request."
We also talked to Lozano Buses, the independent bus company. They said they don't know why Tomili was put on the bus if the teacher didn't receive consent from Samantha. They said the driver should have brought Tomili back to school or, at the very least, gotten off the bus and talked to Garza, the neighbor.
Samantha said she will no longer be using the bus service.