Leader Blues

Saturday, October 20, 2007

TOP STORY >>Boy, 6, safe after leaving school

IN SHORT: After a Cabot Northside Elementary student walks off the campus, principal revists policies and procedures that can be changed based on incident; parents choose not to switch schools.

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Thanks in part to two good Samaritans, a 6-year-old Cabot student made it home safely after he walked out the doors of Northside Elementary School Monday.

Kindergartener Adrian George didn’t want to sleep during naptime, so he asked his teacher if he could go to the office to look at the school’s aquarium. He never made it to the office to see the fish, but instead ran out a side door of the school, which cannot be locked because it’s a fire exit.

George was found playing in the rain along West Locust Street by Century 21 Unlimited real estate agents Barbara Shown and Billie Howard as they were driving back to their 801 W. Locust office, which is near the school.

“We stopped and asked him if he needed help,” Shown said. “He looked a bit scared, and we told him we would follow him home so he wouldn’t be afraid.”

Wanting to make sure he got home safely, the two drove behind him as he walked in the rain to his home on Mockingbird Street.

“Once he got to his house, we got out and knocked on the door to let his mother know. You could tell he was worn out from walking several blocks,” Shown said. “We were concerned and wanted to make sure he was safe and sound and got home alright. It would have bugged us if we hadn’t followed him home.”

Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot School District superintendent, said George was in class the next morning and doing fine.
“The parents were given the option of moving him to another school in the district but refused that offer,” he said. “He is progressing at Northside Elementary and the parents also agreed that he will remain in the same classroom.”

According to Thurman, typically the school’s policy is to call ahead to the office or escort the student when a situation involves behavior.

George wasn’t in trouble, but just going to look at the fish in the office.

“He had requested to go to the office and see the fish instead of taking part in rest time. The aquarium is next to the counselor’s office and the school has found that this is a good time for the counselor to interact with students,” Thurman said.

Students are allowed to “free flow” at times during the day within the building, he said, including going to the library or specialized classes like speech and gifted and talented.

“It’s an unfortunate incident and the principal is working with the staff to revisit the policies and procedures that can be changed based on this incident,” Thurman said. “But it is also important for parents to reinforce to their own children that leaving the school without permission is not acceptable,” he said.

“If there is a problem at school, the student needs to go to the office and call their parent, not run out the door,” he added. “The school can and will do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of every child there, but there are times during the day when a student may have the opportunity to leave the school grounds.”

Northside’s location at 814 W. Locust isn’t the ideal location for anyone to be walking along the street, let alone a child, due to no sidewalks paired with the volume of traffic the street sees.

But being hit by a passing vehicle wasn’t the only danger George faced as he walked by himself. He could have been picked up by a sex offender or kidnapped.

Arkansas Crime Information Center lists five sex offenders living in Cabot with charges listed as sexual solicitation of a child, sexual abuse in the first degree and sexual assault in the fourth degree.

One offender, according to the ACIC Web site, lives on North 8th Street, within half a mile of the school.