New Castle News

New Castle

September 12, 2012

Special needs child wanders away from school

NEW CASTLE — A special needs child who wandered away from West Side School has district officials reconsidering their dismissal policy.

The frantic mother of the 6-year-old girl said that thankfully, her child was unharmed, found wandering near the back entrance to the Westview Terrace housing projects, almost a half-hour after she had left the school.

Her daughter is a first-grader and, typically, she rides the bus home to her father’s house on the East Side, the mom explained.

But on Friday, Jamie Smith, who lives on Park Avenue, was to pick up her daughter at school.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Smith said she called the school mid-morning to say she would pick up her daughter that day. She said she arrived between 3:25 and 3:30 — almost 10 minutes after dismissal of the children who walk home.

They are released before children are called for the buses.

“I normally get her inside from her classroom,” Smith said.

When she went in, she was told her daughter had been sent out with the walkers, “but no one could find her.”

The school nurse was at the door, according to Smith, and a secretary said she had seen the child leave.

She said she had learned the girl’s teacher had told her to go outside to see if her mother was there, and if she wasn’t, go back in. Smith was told her daughter had repeated that to the teacher, then left.

But because of her disability, the child is not capable of remembering that, she said.

Her child’s name was called over the loudspeaker, and school employees searched the classrooms and restroom but didn’t find her. They also checked each of the buses parked in front of the school, but “she wasn’t on any of them,” her mother said.

Bus drivers were alerted and communicated on their radios, and the next step was to call the police.

Meanwhile, school secretary Patty Christofer got into her car, drove around and found the child, according to principal Carmen Nocera.

Smith said it was close to 4 p.m. when Christofer delivered the child to the school.

She said her daughter’s emotional state “was fine,” because she didn’t know she was lost.

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