District Investigates “Failure to Follow Procedure” at School Where Abduction Took Place

Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite says that there was a failure to follow protocol.

As Philadelphia Police continue to investigate the abduction of a 5-year-old girl who was found alive early Tuesday morning, the Philadelphia School District is conducting an investigation of their own.

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.

Dr. Hite says that school employees should have checked records to make sure the woman who took the child was on a list granting her permission to sign her out. The woman also should have been required to show proper identification and should not have been allowed to walk into the classroom. Finally, Hite says school employees should have checked the woman’s signature to see if it matched the signature that the district has on file.

The Philadelphia School District plans to investigate to find out who failed to follow the proper procedures. NBC10's Daralene Jones spoke to Dr. Hite about the investigation.

School officials tell NBC10 the substitute teacher who was in the classroom when the girl was taken has not been reassigned pending the investigation. However, officials also say the sub will only be kept outside the classroom until they find out who else is at fault.

"Who will be fired or at the very least, disciplined for this?" asked Jones.

"It's inappropriate for me to talk discipline at this juncture because we are in the process of investigating where breakdowns occurred," said Dr. Hite. "Once we're able to identify what breakdowns occurred, we will then take disciplinary action with those individuals." 

“If this happened at one school, it could happen at another school today or the next day or the next week,” said Jones. “Telling them that you’re investigating is probably not going to be enough. What action is going to be taken today to assure parents that their children are safe at Philadelphia public schools?”

“Once again, the questions don’t change the answer,” said Dr. Hite. “My response is that we will conduct an investigation. We will determine what breakdowns occurred.”

"Don't you owe it to the parents to at least remove the people who were potentially involved away from the school until you can investigate?" asked Jones.

"I think what we owe to the parents is to ensure that we are creating safety protocols that will prevent these types of incidents," said Jones.

So far, only the substitute teacher has been disciplined for the incident. None of the district's full time employees have been impacted so far.

NBC10 also spoke with the concerned parents of children at the school.

"I really want to put them back in the car and take them back  home," said Alicia Chaney. "That's just what I might do. Because that could happen to anybody's child! I felt like it was my child last night. I was up all night long. I can't begin to tell you, all types of stuff went through my mind."

Michele Milburn says she wants to talk to her child's teacher and, "let them know that nobody except for us can take the kids out of the classroom."

Because of the abduction, Shawnta Toole walked her daughter to school on Tuesday and gave her specific instructions.

"It's scary," said Toole. "I just had a talk with her. I told her if I don't give her permission to let anybody get her out of school then don't leave with anybody."

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