Conner Austin wasn't feeling well Tuesday morning.
His mother, Sheri, didn't know he was ill. She dropped the 7-year-old off at a school bus stop in Florence. The bus was supposed to take the boy to school in Marion, about 11 miles away. Conner got on board and suddenly started to feel sick.
Yet, it's what happens next that left his parents in shock.
"I couldn't' believe his decision just to put him off the bus and drive away. It just totally floored me," said Conner's dad, Mark.
The driver learned Conner was sick before the bus departed, Mark said. He told Conner to go home.
"To me, that's unacceptable for a child's safety. When a child is on a bus, it's a school's responsibility," Mark said.
Conner then walked the few blocks home. His parents said it should never have happened, given his condition, his age and the chilly temperatures.
A neighbor did find Conner walking home from the bus stop, and Conner's teenage sister was at home at the time.
THE DISTRICT'S RESPONSE
District Superintendent Lee Leiker said the district is at fault
"We are going to learn from this. We're going to do a better job," he said.
Leiker described the events slightly differently. He said the boy told the driver he wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home. The boy did.
Regardless, Leiker said the driver did not follow policy. Drivers are allowed to release children to their parents or they can bring the child to school -- neither happened.
Leiker said, soon, drivers will be revisiting the policies for Marion-Florence USD 408.
Leiker would not disclose if the driver was disciplined, as it's a personnel issue. The driver, however, will continue working for the district. He has worked for the schools for several years, Leiker said.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE AUSTIN'S
Conner's parents said they're glad the school is taking ownership for the incident, but are not satisfied with the outcome. They'd like to see the driver disciplined, as they believe their son could have easily been at risk.
For now, the Austin's plan to drive Conner to school.
Leiker said he hopes to earn back the Austin's respect, so that Conner can continue riding the bus with his peers again.