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A four-year-old girl on Monday did not get dropped off at her Baton Rouge elementary school as usual and instead spent all morning asleep on her school bus until she was discovered near the parking lot of a grocery store in Central, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff official said.

“A customer located her and brought her to the manager of the store, who called us,” said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff’s Office, adding that the driver was not present when deputies arrived. But the school bus was still in the parking lot at the Winn Dixie at 10974 Joor Road. 

The child was found sitting under a tree near the parking lot, Hicks said. She said deputies are investigating the conduct of the driver.

The bus driver was subsequently fired, although an internal investigation is still ongoing, said Taylor Gast, a spokeswoman with the school system.

“The child was in good health and released to parents,” Gast said.

She said the girl attends BR FLAIM, short for Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet. The popular magnet school, an elementary school in Beauregard Town focusing on immersing children in French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, has about 410 students.

BR FLAIM’s first bell is 8:25 a.m. The child wasn't discovered until 12:48 p.m., which is when the Sheriff's Office got the call. That means the girl was missing for more than four hours before she was located.

State law mandates that drivers must check the bus at the end of every route to prevent children being left on the bus.

“As a result of today's events all drivers will be reminded of this state law,” Gast said. “The safety and security of all students is our top priority.”

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.