Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Girl, 5, calls bus mistake 'very scary'

Ja-carria Dodson is back with her mother Jacqueline Tate after she was left at the wrong school Thursday after a fire drill.


Ja-carria Dodson is back with her mother Jacqueline Tate after she was left at the wrong school Thursday after a fire drill.

CLEARWATER — A 5-year-old girl was found crying at the corner of a busy Clearwater intersection after a school bus left her at the wrong school Thursday morning.

The bus drove off without Ja-carria Dodson, who attends Dunedin Elementary School, after she got off the bus for an evacuation drill at Sandy Lane Elementary School.

"I feel awful about it because it's very scary," explained Ja-carria, a kindergartener, a few hours after the incident.

Ja-carria was found by a friend of her mother's who happened to drive by Sunset Point Road and Kings Highway as the girl attempted to walk to her great-grandmother's home nearby, Tate said. The friend then took Ja-carria to Dunedin Elementary School.

"Anything could have happened," said Ja-carria's mom, Jacqueline Tate, 21. "She could have been hit by a car."

School officials are providing few details about how the girl ended up alone on a corner a mile from her school.

"There appears to be some inconsistencies in the information we have received from the parent and school personnel," Pinellas County schools spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said.

But Zahn refused to address what the inconsistencies were.

Tate says all she knows is that her daughter got on a bus to go to school a few blocks from her home and an hour later an old friend drove by her home to say she found Ja-carria alone on a corner more than a mile away.

Zahn said there were five adults, including two assistant principals, supervising the drill at Sandy Lane.

All students got off the bus for the drill, Zahn said. Then, Sandy Lane students were told to get back on the bus, collect their belongings and go to class. And Dunedin Elementary students were told to get back on the bus and stay until they were delivered to school, Zahn said.

"Ja-carria did not get back on the bus after the bus drill at Sandy Lane. Her bus assistant did not take roll this morning," a Pinellas County schools conference report said.

Zahn said that school officials told her that information was provided by Ja-carria's mother, not the school staff.

But Tate said a Dunedin school official told her roll call might not have been taken.

Zahn also would not elaborate on the protocol for making sure that all students who get off buses for a drill are accounted for.

"The bus assistants are assigned to meet the needs of special education students and are not expected to take attendance of all students on a school bus," Zahn said.

She said Dunedin Elementary is reviewing the matter and scheduled a conference with Ja-carria's mother.

"As always, the safety of students is of the upmost importance to our district," Zahn said.

Tate said she did receive a call from the school staff Thursday, saying the school wanted Ja-carria to show how she left Sandy Lane property.

Tate said she learned about the incident when she got a call from her sister about 9:20 a.m. Her sister told her she received a call from Dunedin Elementary that Ja-carria was left at the wrong school, but was safe at Dunedin Elementary.

She learned more about what happened from her friend, who dropped Ja-carria off at Dunedin Elementary and then drove to Tate's home to explain what happened, Tate said.

Tate arrived at Dunedin Elementary around 10 a.m. She said it seemed like the school was trying to shift the blame.

The report from the school states that "Ja-carria does not usually ride the bus in the a.m." But Tate said her daughter had been doing so all week and rides the bus a few times a week in the mornings.

"I am worried it could happen again," Tate said. "They need to take better precautions."

After her friend stopped by, Tate went to the school to talk to officials and bring her daughter home.

"I wanted her to be home with me because I know she was a little shaken up," Tate said.

Dunedin Elementary School principal Kathy Brickley said Zahn told her all calls about the incident should be referred to Zahn.

Zahn said she may have more information today.

"The entire matter is under investigation by the principal of Dunedin Elementary," Zahn said.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at or 445-4155.

Girl, 5, calls bus mistake 'very scary' 09/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 8:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. First lady Melania Trump heads to White House garden for planting, harvesting


    WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is heading out to the White House garden to do some planting and harvesting.

    First lady Melania Trump picks peppers with a girl with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Washington. [Andrew Harnik | Associated Press]
  2. New aerial photos show Puerto Rico devastation; at least 6 dead in Hurricane Maria aftermath


    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Early aerial images of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria here show waterlogged neighborhoods, roofs peeled off homes and shopping centers, and once-lush landscape …

    Aerial photo of flooding in the costal town of Loiza, on the north shore of Puerto Rico. [Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for the Washington Post]
  3. State rolls out food assistance program for residents affected by Hurricane Irma


    Help is on the way for Florida residents struggling to put food on the table after Hurricane Irma.

    The Salvation Army Mobile Food Pantry hlped out with free food in Largo after Hurricane Irma. Now, the federal government is expanding access to food for people affected by the storm. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery


    Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma
  5. Only one Hernando County school needs schedule adjustment after Irma


    Hernando County public school students missed seven days of classes because of Hurricane Irma.

    Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.