Girl, 5, left in cold for hours after busing mix-up

A 5-year-old girl in Valparaiso waited outside her empty home in the cold for two hours after being put on a bus to go home from school instead of being picked up for daycare.

Video Transcript

TABATHA SCHWELLER: I said where's Raelynne and she looked at me and she said, she's not here.

- Tabitha Schwellar says she froze at hearing those words at her daughter's Valparaiso daycare center last Friday.

TABATHA SCHWELLER: She opened the door and didn't even look at me or say anything. I said where's Raelynne? And she said, she's not here. And I said, you mean to tell me my baby's missing.

- The panicked mother raced home, frantically calling her family. A nightmare of scenarios crept into her mind. The worst thought--

TABATHA SCHWELLER: --if I was ever going to see my baby again.

- Then relief came as she pulled into the driveway. Her backpack and coat were sitting by the front door, and I was screaming for her name. And she was like mommy, mommy.

- Schwellar said by the time she was reunited with her daughter, she learned the five-year-old had been alone outside the house for two hours in the below-freezing temperatures, thankfully finding shelter in her boyfriend's work vehicle.

TABATHA SCHWELLER: She was shivering. I had to take her to the hospital.

- Schwellar later learned from her daughter's school, there was a mix up that led to these frightening moments. In a statement, the school superintendent said, in part, "There was a substitute teacher in the classroom that day and Raelynne was placed on the bus to go home instead of going to her after school daycare. This has given us an opportunity for us to look into how this happened and what training steps we need to take as a district to ensure it does not happen again."

Representatives with daycare Little You Academy told ABC 7, per protocol they pick up students after school buses are boarded and leave, so she was already gone by the time they arrived. But they said they still asked for Raelynne, but a school member informed them she was not a pickup for that day.

However Schwellar showed us this note signed by the principal claiming that did not happen. But she believes the school, daycare, and bus driver are all at fault.

TABATHA SCHWELLER: Three people failed her, and it could have cost her, her life.

- Schwellar says she plans to pursue legal action to get justice for her daughter.