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.
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?