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Ty Stiffarm
Ty Stiffarm

Charges possible after toddler forgotten on Fond du Lac bus

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Criminal charges may be filed against a bus driver and aide who failed to notice a 3-year-old boy had been left on a bus Monday after a drop-off at the Fond du Lac Head Start.

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Jeremy Ojibwe, Fond du Lac's director of law enforcement, said Tuesday evening that an officer was finishing a report on the incident and it would go to the Carlton County Attorney's Office this morning for consideration of criminal charges.

That would please Brooklynn Wait, who said some sort of justice should be served after her son, Ty Stiffarm, spent more than three hours on the bus before being discovered by a passerby near the bus garage.

Wait said she made a statement to police, who also took statements from the bus driver and the aide who was on the bus.

Wait said she will keep Ty and two of her other children out of school indefinitely while she seeks answers as to how her son could have been left on the bus in freezing temperatures.

Ty loves school, his mother said, and that's part of the heartache she felt a day after he was found on the bus. He now doesn't want to go to school if it means getting back on the bus, she said.

After a sleepless night contemplating the near-tragedy, she kept all three of her children out of school Tuesday and will continue to do so, she said.

"Not in the near future," she said when asked when the children would return.

The mother found herself with lingering questions about the ordeal her son went through and wasn't satisfied with what Fond du Lac band officials offered Tuesday.

"I was supposed to get names and more of an explanation," she said. "A lot of questions weren't answered."

Wait spoke with Chuck Walt, the executive director of tribal programs, who wrote a brief report on Monday's incident and handed it to Wait on Tuesday. She said the report contained little new information and her conversation with Walt was brief.

Walt told the News Tribune that new policies are being introduced to "make sure nothing like this happens again."

One is that teachers will be required to take attendance early in the day to discern any unexcused absences, Walt said. Had that been done Monday, a search for Ty likely would have ensued.

Walt said policies regarding checking buses for students also will be reviewed.

Two transportation employees remain on administrative leave while an internal investigation continues, Walt said.

Ty's mother said band officials will look at the incident and move on, while she has to try to go on with the thought of almost losing her child. She said that when she brought Ty to the hospital Monday, doctors said another hour on the bus could have led to severe hypothermia and even death.

"I want to do everything I can to get some justice," Wait said.

She said the two employees involved should never hold such jobs again.

And she would like to see criminal charges, saying that any parent who left a child in a cold car would face immediate reprisal in court. The report she received Tuesday says there was a failure to check the bus for remaining students after they were dropped at the school but has no information on how that could have happened with Ty in the seat directly behind the driver.

"That's still a mystery," Wait said. "That's what makes me so angry."

Wait said she intends to pursue her legal options and has been speaking with an attorney. She said she is still consulting with family members and plans to reach out to more Fond du Lac officials to get answers.

"It's not for money," she said adamantly. "It's about justice."

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