Indiana girl, 5, left outside empty house in cold for 2 hours after school bus mixup

VALPARAISO, Ind. — A 5-year-old Indiana girl waited alone outside her empty home for two hours in cold weather after a school bus mixup, her mother said.

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Tabatha Schweller told WLS-TV that her daughter, who attends kindergarten at Washington Township Elementary in Valparaiso, typically goes to daycare after school at Little U Academy.

On Feb. 19, Schweller went to the Valparaiso daycare to pick up her daughter only to discover she was not there, the television station reported.

“(The daycare worker) opened the door and didn’t even look at me or say anything,” Schweller told WLS. “I said, ‘Where’s Raelynne?’ She said, ‘She’s not here.’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me my baby’s missing?’”

Schweller went to her home and found her daughter inside her boyfriend’s work vehicle, the television station reported.

“Her backpack and coat were sitting by the front door, and I was screaming for her name, and she was like, ‘Mommy,’” Schweller told WLS. The child had been huddled in the vehicle while outside the temperatures were below freezing, the television station reported.

“She was shivering. I had to take her to the hospital,” Schweller said.

According to East Porter County School Corporation officials, the girl had a substitute teacher that day, who put her on the bus home instead of sending her to daycare, WLS reported.

Little U Academy officials said in a statement that when they went to pick up the child at school, she was not at the designated location. Officials said their staff asked about the girl’s whereabouts but were told by school staff she was “not a pickup” that day.

Schweller said she was not satisfied with those answers and plans to pursue legal action.

“Three people failed her, and it could have cost her her life,” Schweller told WLS.