SOUTH SALT LAKE — The Granite School District is re-evaluating protocols for young elementary students who need to leave early after a kindergartener walked out of school and hopped on a UTA bus last week.
The boy — a student at Lincoln Elementary — was missing for more than an hour.
"A very scary situation, especially for the family, and we can certainly understand their concern," said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley. "These are our kids too, and we care about them deeply. That was a scary moment."
That moment began during an event that is routine at any school — a child not feeling well, who goes to the office to call someone to pick them up.
In this case, the office staff sent the boy back to class to get his coat and backpack. When his grandfather showed up a few minutes later to pick him up, the boy couldn't be found.
"The student just simply went out the back door and later told his mother he was going to go to the doctor himself," Horsley explained.
When school employees couldn't find him, video showed the boy was on foot — at least that is how it appeared.
"Six staff members were combing the neighborhood for a little over an hour's time period, as well as local police and Granite District police assisting us in that search," Horsley said.
The boy walked south down 400 East and got in line with a woman who was waiting to board a Utah Transit Authority bus at 3900 South. Because the boy did not appear to get on the bus alone, the bus driver was not suspicious.
The bus took the boy along its scheduled route, all the way to West Valley City.
"It wasn't until almost an hour later that he was discovered by the bus operator, on the bus, asleep. Again, (the boy) wasn't feeling well. (He) obviously did not find the doctor," Horsley said.
Fixing the loophole
Now, district officials are fixing what they call a loophole in school procedures.
"There are enough paraprofessional aides at that school that they can simply have the student wait in the classroom, have the teacher call down and have a parent or adult or volunteer escort them to the office and make sure they get where they need to be," Horsley explained.
In a written statement, he pointed out that this is a "new and unique concern as younger students are not prone to leaving school campus." He pointed out that doors cannot be locked to keep students in due to many concerns, including the potential for fire.
"Regardless, the school has an obligation to provide a safe environment in any circumstance. Revised protocols have been implemented to ensure that younger students are appropriately supervised at all times, including when walking to and from the front office."
The boy's mother issued a written statement saying she wanted the story reported to raise awareness about safety procedures at the school, and to prevent other parents from going through the fear she experienced when her son was missing.
She credited the district for taking responsibility and remedying the issue.
"I want to feel confident and comfortable sending my children to school and knowing that is where they will be, while I faithfully put my trust in school staff during school hours. With the support from the School and the District, it has created an environment that has allowed us to build a better foundation of trust; so that when issues like this arise, we can come together and find a solution that can only benefit our children and our communities,” she wrote.
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