Seeking advice on a school-related dilemma

Cassidy

On Thursday, April 16th at 1:49 pm I answered a call from my daughter’s school. I was greeted by the school’s inclusion specialist, who informed me that the vice principal was also taking part in the call via speaker. This, I knew, could not be a good call.

I was right.

The inclusion specialist said that she needed to talk to me about an incident that happened at school the day before. She then proceeded to tell me that my daughter had been in the inclusion room with staff on Wednesday and–at some point–had slipped unnoticed out of the room. Not only that, I’m afraid, but after slipping unnoticed out of the room, my daughter proceeded to slip unnoticed past the front office and out the front door of the school. It is unclear how long she was away but eventually, my daughter–my daughter who has Down syndrome–was discovered walking alongside a two-lane road with a 55 mph speed limit in the middle of the desert. She was discovered by what was described to me as an “older couple”. They, apparently, saw my daughter wandering down the road and stopped to find out her story out of concern. One way or another it became clear to them that my daughter had disappeared from the nearby high school and they put my daughter in their car and drove her back to the school.

Did you catch that part? They put my daughter in their car. They put her in their car!

Because I am a person of faith my first response to this discovery is to thank the LORD God Almighty that the people who stopped to inquire about the special needs child wandering alongside the road were good people. My second response is to attempt to quash the what-if scenarios and alternate endings that might have been because, well, there is no sense in going there. My third response is a desire to reach out to the good people who stopped for my daughter–to thank them profusely for what they did. I suppose it goes without saying that there is an underlying simmer throughout all of these responses. I can’t help but feel angry towards the staff members who failed to supervise my daughter as their job descriptions require of them. In this case, their negligence put my daughter’s life in danger. And so yeah, I’m angry.

I’m also angry because a full 24 hours passed before the school saw fit to inform me of this “incident”. I don’t know how long she was missing from the school but I do know that there should have come a point at which I was notified of the situation and under no circumstances should that point have come (a) after she was found and (b)  a full 24 hours later. Had I been made aware of the “incident” within a reasonable period of time you can bet I would not have sent my daughter back to school the following day. As her mother I have the right to make decisions that I believe to be in her best interests but yet I was denied that right because the administration at the school did not see fit to tell me that staff negligence resulted in a situation that put my daughter in grave danger.

I was informed of “the incident” on Thursday afternoon. My daughter did not return to that school on Friday. In no uncertain terms I stated to district personnel that my daughter would not be returning to that school–ever. Period. Arrangements were made on short notice and I’m happy to report that the following Monday, my daughter was welcomed with open arms at another high school in the district.

I’m happy with where she is now.

I’m equally unsettled, for reasons that are still swirling in my head.

Cassidy2

I’d like very much to post something to our town’s Facebook group page seeking out the couple who rescued my daughter that day and very well may have saved her life. I hesitate, though, because I’m not sure how I feel about making this a public spectacle for the district. Overall, I’ve been so very happy with the services they’ve provided over the years. Also, I have a friend who works at the school in question and she informed me that sweeping changes were put in place immediately after the incident to protect other children from the same danger my daughter was put in.  And so I lean towards believing that there is no need to “warn” other parents. Still, I would really like to offer that couple my personal, heartfelt thanks.

What would you do if it happened to your child?

31 Replies to “Seeking advice on a school-related dilemma”

  1. I would pull my child from the school and I would also make the police department aware of the issue. I would not keep it quiet – I used to be a teacher before having children and I find it hard to believe nobody saw her. The school has some massive security issues – if she were able to get out unnoticed, someone would be able to get in unnoticed. I’m so sorry that happened but I’m thankful she’s ok! xx

    1. I’m thankful for that too, Nicola. In regards to the school, the setup makes it fairly easy for people to slip in and out unnoticed. After receiving a lot of thoughtful comments on this post and on Facebook, I plan to follow-up to learn more about the changes that have been put in place.

  2. Praise God for His protection. It would take me a long time to form words other than ‘Thank you Jesus.’ Terrifying.

  3. Ouch. That’s tough on a mother’s heart. I’m so thankful that she was okay! What did C have to say about the situation? How did she feel? I’m not sure what I would do, but I think you are doing the right thing by thinking before acting (and posting), whatever your final decision is. Do you think that there is a way to post it with enough, but not too much, detail? You know how that forum can get, and it would turn into a bloodbath very quickly if you were very detailed, possibly hurting innocent hard-working staff in the process. Maybe something like, “I’m interested in thanking the very kind couple who saved my high school daughter on MAC hwy on X date. If it was you, or if you know them, can you please PM me? Thank you.”

    1. I’ve sent an email to the school asking if they took contact information from the couple. If that is not a fruitful endeavor I will use something very close to your phrasing on the Facebook page. Thank you!

  4. The scare has been covered, praise God for his hand of protection. I would post on the community fb page. Leaving many of the school details out, but posting enough so that hopefully the couple will be found so you can thank them. If the details come out, so be it…

  5. Oh, Darcie, I have to admit my heart stopped beating for a slit second and I may have caught myself not breathing for a bit just reading your post. I can’t imagine living through that call/situation. God bless the couple. That was sure God’s hand in the situation. Glad that Cassidy is ok and hope and pray this didn’t traumatize her too much or at all, for that matter. Hugs to you. Miss Ya.

  6. Debbie, I love that you just said exactly what I said to Darcie on the phone. Same brain. ;)

  7. holy shit. I can’t believe it…after reading this I have horrible chest pains…I don’t know if I was holding my breath the entire time I read it or if I’m just so angry!! Oh my…I can’t even imagine. There is NO NO NO excuse for how the “situation” was handled. NONE. I would have come unglued. You did the right thing taking her out of there…you didn’t want her there in the first place!! Oh my…I just can’t believe it. THANK GOD she’s ok!!!!!!!! Moving won’t come soon enough now!!

  8. oh….and I forgot. Being quiet doesn’t solve problems. This can be taken care of by your elegant ability to use words Darcie…this is something you need to address.

    1. Thank you for your continued support and concern, my friend. I’ve read and heard a lot of thoughtful comments that make me look at this whole thing from a different perspective and I think I will do something in an effort to help protect other people. I’m just not sure exactly what that will be yet.

  9. It is absolutely unacceptable that they did not call you the minute this happened. Unacceptable. Things happen, yes, but parents need to be made aware ASAP.
    Does the school know the name of the couple? I would go that route first before seeking information on Facebook, just because I know Facebook can quickly turn ugly and could for not just the school, but you or Cassidy as well. People are just… mean. If you do go Facebook, I would post very vague information: “Looking for the older couple who interacted with my child on [whatever street] at [whatever time]. I wish to talk to you and express my heartfelt thanks for your help and kindness.”

    1. ps, I didn’t mean for “things happen” to sound flippant; rather, I meant that every school can have huge issues and security/staff failures like this, but it needs to be handled immediately.

      1. I knew what you meant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I’m especially interested to hear from educators on this.

  10. I am mortified reading this. Shame on the school, thank god for good people. I’d be awfully tempted to own that school (sue them).

  11. Darcie… Yes! Praise God as you said that she was found by sweet, caring people! He is mighty and He is a protector, He was watching over your sweet girl! You can only imagine, the anger and tears that came over me when I read this. How?? I just don’t understand, how…? I have to be careful what I say, but I believe you are handling this with incredible grace! I miss seeing you guys every week, please give my sweet Cassidy girl a hug from me!!

  12. oh my goodness :(Thank God everything turned out well. But you are way more calm than I would be. You’d hear me yelling….all the way from Florida! Hugs!!

  13. Darcie, that couple know they did the right thing. God has blessed them with a loving watchful heart. Please do post it on your local town face book page. Something like, To the special couple that found my daughter along ‘what ever’ road and returned her to school.’ Someone is going to know someone else that talked to Grandparents or parents that say that happened to them that afternoon.’
    Now for the school! I would make it very known for other parents that have special needs children attending that school. Do the police know? Has this happened before? There is absolutely no reason they should not have notified you the very day this happened! There could be ‘child endangerment’ charges there. I know that’s not what’s in your heart, but they may need a real WAKE UP call! Love you with all my heart.

  14. The last day my child was at the previous school was the day my child walked out of the classroom, while I was observing, and not one person in that classroom batted an eye. Luckily, I was there and after being in complete disbelief that no one noticed or went went after him , I got up and followed my child. Safety and the well being of our children needs to be taken very seriously.

  15. I’m shocked the school didn’t take the couple’s information when they returned her- how do they know they were “well meaning?” (And of course most likely they were, but how did the school know this??) Shouldn’t they have been (a big!!!) part of the incident report? And I also think the police should definitely have been involved. I am so sorry you have to be dealing with this! I am glad on this side of things that all is okay.

    1. The school very well may have their contact information. I have sent an email requesting it–we’ll see. Thank you for your kind words, friend.

  16. Oh! My! Gosh! Darcie this is totally wrong. The police and YOU should have been called as soon as she was not in a school employee’s site of vision. There’s absolutely NO excuse for this. At all. I am a substitute classified school employee (classroom aide). I’ve worked in many classrooms with special children. Full time before I quit and became a sub. The police need to be notified of this situation and I would most definitely post on your local city FB page. To thank the sweet people who returned her to the school AND to let other parents in your daughter’s classroom know what happened. I would go so far as to demand that a letter go home with every student that could possible be put in a situation like your daughter. I’m sorry for rambling but … 24 hours? That is unforgivable. I also think everyone involved at the school should send a written note to Cassidy for failing to keep her safe. You did the right thing pulling Cassidy from that school. I apologize for the rant but I’m truly stunned. Is it too late to file a police report?

  17. Still upset by reading this even though you told me. I am most upset not by the mistake… those happen but, the delay…. that raises big red flags in my book. I hope her new school is a happy and safe place for her.

  18. I’m so thankful for that the couple found her and returned her safely. She had angels watching over her, for sure! I can understand not wanting to make a “spectacle” but I feel like your daughter’s life is much more important is more important than the school’s feelings. Thoughts and prayers are with you!

  19. This makes my blood run cold. I cannot BELIEVE this happened in this day and age of security overload. I’m so sorry you had to experience this and so glad that Cassidy doesn’t seem to be troubled by it. As far as what to do now, I don’t know. The fact that the school has already implemented new protocol shows they’re taking it seriously. I’d definitely want to talk to the people who found her though. (((hug)))

  20. OH MY! That is so horrible. I am sooooo glad she is fine. Didn’t the school get the names of the couple?

  21. I would want to make sure her new school is following the same changes / precautions too. Did they explain why they waited a day to contact you? It would have been nice if you could have had a conversation with her about it the same day.

    It sounds like you did the right thing so far, and you certainly acted quickly. Good for you.

  22. Darcie, my heart simply ached to read this, hoping it simply wasn’t true and couldn’t have happened. I waited to post something to let my rational side catch up with my emotional one. Because my mama bear side said rip the school to shreds and my lawyer side said sue their pants off. I wanted blood FOR you because what happened is deplorable!

    But after some reflection, I think the main question is what would best case scenario for you and your family look like? Is it that the school doesn’t put another child in jeopardy again and that you become the advocate for systemic changes? Have you moved to a better situation for Cassidy in all this? My guess is you are in the same school district, so I would want assurances that measures are being made district wide to ensure her future safety.

    Perhaps the best outcome for you now that you are several days removed is to be able to find this kind couple and thank them for being your child’s guardian angels. It may even turn into an ongoing relationship, who knows? I am certain you will make lemonade out of these lemons, my friend!

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