Driver is fired after she left 9-year-old sleeping on bus

A Richmond County school bus driver with a history of minor accidents has been fired after leaving a 9-year-old child alone on her bus earlier this month.

An internal investigation found that Mirna Neal neglected to check her bus when she finished her morning routes on Sept. 2. An English as a Second Language pupil had fallen asleep on the bus.

Ms. Neal, an 11-year employee of the transportation department, dropped off children at Glenn Hills Elementary, proceeded to Morgan Road Middle School and then returned to her home on Bennock Mill Road while the child slept.

The child woke up, didn't know where he was and began to walk around the neighborhood, according to Ms. Neal's termination letter, which was signed by Superintendent Dana Bedden.

A stranger passing by noticed the child, picked him up and took him to school.

"While the child was not physically harmed, he was upset and scared," the letter said. "Moreover, he could have been struck by traffic, kidnapped or harmed."

School board policy requires that bus drivers check each seat to ensure that no one is left aboard, but she did not conduct a check of the bus, the investigation found.

Calls to Ms. Neal's home went unanswered, but she admitted in a statement that she had not checked her bus.

Her middle school children tend to sit in the back of the bus, she said. When Glenn Hills pupils are dropped off, the Morgan Road pupils move forward and help out when a younger child falls asleep.

In the short, handwritten statement, Ms. Neal said she was sorry "but I assume no one was on the bus when I drove the bus home."

It wasn't the first problem Ms. Neal has had as a bus driver.

In December, Director of Transportation Michael Shinn issued her a "memorandum of concern" for having what he considered to be an excessive number of traffic accidents, all of which were determined to be her fault.

In five years, Ms. Neal was involved in six school bus accidents, according to her personnel file.

Mr. Shinn sent the memo up the supervisory channels, but no outcome was recorded in her personnel file.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.