A 4-year-old boy from Riverhead has been getting "a million" hugs from his mother since he was left alone last week on a school minibus when the driver forgot to drop him off.
"He said he cried a little," his mother, Kashina Brown, said Thursday. "If I think about it, it's still, of course, very upsetting. I've hugged him a million times. I find myself just staring at him."
Now, the mother of preschooler Elijah Hopkins wants the driver fired.
Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney, whose district transports preschoolers, confirmed a student was left for a "brief period."
"We are now in the process of dealing with a personnel issue related to that occurrence," Carney said by email. "We are, of course, extremely upset that this occurred as the safety of all our students is the number one priority for all staff."
Brown said Elijah is usually dropped off about 11:50 a.m. at the nearby home of her mother, Cheryl Nash, until she can pick him up after work.
But on Sept. 17, Elijah just sat in the back of the bus for up to half an hour in the bus yard of the Riverhead school district, the mother said, and transportation officials did not know her son never got home until she and Nash called.
Nash was there when the driver dropped off her son at 12:25 p.m. -- and gave a "deceptive" explanation of the delay, Brown said.
The driver said she had to check the addresses of two new students on the route, an explanation that made sense at the time, Elijah's parent said, and a short time later, an assistant superintendent called to make sure her son was all right.
But after emotions settled that day, Brown said, Elijah told her he had cried in the back of the bus when he saw the driver leave and go into the building.
When Brown called the assistant superintendent to report what her son and driver said, he apologized and had no idea the driver had given her a different story, the mother said.
"He said the driver would face disciplinary action and that the driver would no longer be the driver on the route," she said.
Calls to the driver's home Thursday night were not returned.
In her email, Carney said drivers are regularly trained to check buses before leaving.
"We are thankful that the child is safe and we will be sure to address the seriousness of this incident," said the superintendent, who did not respond to further questions by email.
Elijah's mother wants to make sure the driver does not get just a suspension.
"I expect to be told the truth, especially when it involves the welfare of my child," Brown said. "Not only did it happen . . . but to find out you lied, it blows my mind."