Mom of autistic JCPS student who went missing: 'This should never have happened'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The mother of the 16-year-old boy with autism missing for nearly 10 hours on Thursday says Jefferson County Public Schools dropped her son off at the wrong bus stop.
"It concerns me and it infuriates me," said Risa Dean, whose son Kyle Lein, was the subject of a frantic search by JCPS and the Louisville Metro Police Department late Thursday night. "To have an autistic child, regardless of age and function, to have him unsupervised ...it is unthinkable and it should never have happened."
Dean said she and her family moved to Louisville last fall and had been living with her husband's parents at a home off Ethan Allen Way, which is where Kyle's bus stop was last school year.
This year, he was assigned to the Phoenix School of Discovery in Hikes Point.
"I changed the info two weeks before school started and they requested for me to send proof of address on the first day, which I did," Dean said. "And the bus schedule ran smoothly and on time and there was no problems on the first day. The second day is where things fell apart for him."
On Thursday afternoon, Dean said she went out to Kyle's bus stop near her home off Capella Lane and became concerned when he did not arrive by 4:15 p.m.
"I called the bus depot and it took forever to get any information," she said. "The first story they told me was he got off the bus at Sylvania and Rutledge and that his sister had picked him up. That worried me cause my daughter had been with me all day. So I'm wondering if he got into someone else's car and they're assuming that's his sister."
After hours of looking at security cameras installed at the Phoenix School of Discovery, in the district's school buses and at bus depots, officials discovered that the school had given Kyle the wrong transportation card on Thursday and he was put onto the wrong bus.
"I can't really blame the bus driver," Dean said. "It was the school that gave out the wrong info."
Dean said she was then told Kyle was dropped off at Watson Lane Elementary School -- approximately eight miles from their new home. He left the bus stop and eventually found his way to the home of his step-grandparents home off Ethan Alley Way, but they were not there.
"I tried to find my way home from the place they mistakenly dropped me (off)," Kyle told WDRB News. "It was getting dark it was getting cold. I was a little hungry and thirsty."
LMPD officers eventually found Kyle sitting on the front porch of his step-grandparents home and he was reunited with his mother around 2 a.m.
"I had to make sure it wasn't a dream," Dean said, upon reunited with her son. "I immediately hugged him. I didn't want to let him go."
Bonnie Hackbarth, a spokeswoman for JCPS, says district officials were on site at MetroSafe yesterday, as is standard practice during the first few days of school, when a call came in that a student was missing.
"Due to the nature of the call, we immediately referred it to the police, at which time it became a police matter," Hackbarth said. "Meanwhile, security officials visited the school and canvassed the area. In addition, we began reviewing bus and school video footage to assist police."
Hackbarth told WDRB News that the incident was still under investigation as of Friday afternoon.
"We are so very thankful that the student was found and returned safely, with the help of bus and school video footage," Hackbarth said in a written statement Friday morning. "We are now investigating exactly what happened, and once we have all the facts, we will take any necessary action."
Hackbarth said JCPS is ensuring that the student has appropriate transportation so "he can get back to the business of learning."
"We have confirmed a new transportation plan for him that will begin Monday," Hackbarth said.
Cathy Krebs, who lives down the street from Kyle's step-grandparents, said she saw the teen walking by shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday.
"I seen him walking from the street and he looked right past like he recognized me, but I knew Kyle didn’t live there anymore," she said. "I didn't know anything about him being missing until after I saw it on the news."
Lein's family members were the only people giving out information about Kyle's disappearance Thursday night. No alerts were issued by LMPD or JCPS.
Officer Carey Klain, a spokeswoman for LMPD, told WDRB News on Friday afternoon that JCPS gave them incorrect information -- officers were told he was "high functioning and not in danger" and at first led them to search in the wrong places.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, LMPD officials said they will look at their policy in how they alert the public on missing children in an effort to find them quicker.
Dean said officers eventually found Kyle because she "told them to check the cameras at the school because he's on a camera somewhere and he got on the bus that was in view of a camera at the school and that's how we found where he went to."
The Phoenix School of Discovery is an alternative middle and high school that serves students who have struggled in a traditional classroom. It also serves a number of special-needs students.
LMPD and JCPS are releasing new information late Friday afternoon. We will continue to update this story as details become available.
Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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