Mother furious after special needs son wanders off school - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Mother furious after special needs son wanders off school

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Kristeen Chase, the student's mother Kristeen Chase, the student's mother
Christian Salinas Christian Salinas

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. (WSVN) -- A South Florida mother is outraged with her son's school after, she said, officials failed to notice the 9-year-old had managed to leave campus and walk home in the middle of the day.

Kristeen Chase said her son was left unsupervised in his classroom at North Andrews Gardens Elementary School in Oakland Park, just before noon, Tuesday. "I was in shock; this is the one 'what if' I never thought would happen," she said.

The third-grader, who has Asperger's characteristics and suffers from ADHD, somehow managed to slip off the school premises as his class was preparing to go to lunch. Chase said he somehow got confused, thinking it was the end of the day.

Chase said her son packed up his belongings and walked home, located 12 and a half blocks away. "Nobody even knew he was gone," she said. "The way that they found out he was gone is, I showed up here and let them know he was missing."

Christian's mother said the 9-year-old even approached a stranger at one point, possibly asking him for directions. "He said hello to this guy," she said. "I thank God the guy didn't take him. I thank God."

Chase said the child's grandmother found him trying to climb in through a window. "My son was lucky and made it home," she said. "Whose son or whose daughter isn't going to make it home?"

Chase said the school let her son down by letting him wander off campus unnoticed. "They still had not contacted me, they still had not notified me that my son was either in danger, missing, could not be located," she said.

According to Chase, Christian has a difficult time with emotional relationships, and they are working together, so he knows the difference between right and wrong. Nevertheless, she said, her son needs a little extra special attention at school.

Chase said she is keeping Christian out of school because she fears for his safety. "Losing your child for an hour is not an accident, it's not a mistake, it's something that should not ever happen," she said.

Broward County Public Schools officials issued a statement that reads, "At all times, ensuring the safety and well-being of students is paramount. A complete review and investigation into the incident by District and school staff is underway."

Other parents said a student should know better than to leave school. "I teach my child not to leave campus and stay with an adult," said parent Tracey Hildebrant.

Chase argued every child is different and said she wants the school and school board make changes so this does not happen again to any student. "If my child, like I said, who's a special needs child, is able to sneak off campus and go unnoticed for an hour, again, a 'norm' child would be able to [leave school] easily," she said.

Chase said Christian was left shaken up by the ordeal. She said she has spoken with the school's principal and has filed a report with Broward Sheriff's Office. The Florida Department of Children and Families is also investigating.


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