In the wake of Monday’s abduction of a 5-year-old girl, questions and concerns are being raised about the safety and security of Philadelphia schools.
Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite says that there was a failure to follow protocol when a woman who claimed to be the girl’s mother was allowed to come to the Cullen Bryant Elementary School around 8:50 a.m. and take the 5-year-old girl away.
Digging deeper into stories that affect the Philadelphia region
With the relative ease in which the abductor entered the school and took the child, many people in the area are wondering just how safe Philadelphia schools actually are. With that in mind, NBC10’s Lu Ann Cahn visited several schools to find out how hard it is to get in.
Cahn visited five elementary schools. Two out of the five schools unlocked their doors and let her in without asking any questions. When she arrived at Adaire Elementary School in Fishtown, she merely rang a buzzer, looked through a camera and heard the door open.
“A woman is at the desk and she doesn’t say anything,” said Cahn. “I asked her if I was going the right way and she told me, ‘Yeah, the office is over here.’”
It was the same situation at Henry Houston Elementary School in Mount Airy. Cahn simply buzzed the door and walked inside the school building with no challenge. She spoke with Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard about her findings.
“You would think that today, just two days after a child is abducted from the classroom, that there is no way a stranger could be just buzzed in without questioning,” said Cahn.
“You would think that people would get the message that this is serious,” said Gallard.
Gallard told NBC10 that after last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, all Philadelphia schools were asked to review security.
“For anyone to be allowed into the school without being challenged is a real, real issue with us,” said Gallard.
Cramp Elementary School in North Philadelphia did not let Lu Ann through the front door. Fox Chase Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia also did not let Lu Ann in until she answered several questions.
Fell Elementary School in South Philadelphia quickly buzzed her in after she told them who she was. The school security officer had a tougher time getting into the building shortly after. The School District told NBC10 that letting Cahn inside wasn’t acceptable either.
“You have to be challenged,” said Gallard. “You have to have a business. You have to have something to do with the school. You can’t just say, ‘I am “X” and I’m coming in.’”
The School District insists they will go back again and make sure that school principals are enforcing policies. NBC10 plans to investigate school security again in a future report.