Abduction turns focus on protocol at Phila. schools

January 16, 2013 5:02:57 AM PST
There are major concerns as to how a kidnapping was allowed to happen inside a Philadelphia school.

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Clearly, there was a major breakdown in procedure and protocol that could have had a disastrous outcome. School District officials are now scrambling to find out exactly how it happened to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. William Hite said, "We're in the process of investigating just where those procedural breakdowns occurred."

The woman who took a 5-year-old girl from Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia apparently went directly to her classroom to get her.

Investigators say in this case, a woman, dressed in Muslim garb, identified herself as Tiffany and said she was there to pick up the child.

The girl does have relatives who are Muslim and her uncle does have a girlfriend named Tiffany who was on the list of those allowed to pick her up from school. But it wasn't learned until later that it was not her.

The woman then got confrontational when the substitute teacher challenged her saying, "I signed what I was supposed to sign, I've got other appointments and I do not need to put up with your nonsense."

With that, the woman took the child and left.

"That's something that should never happen," Hite said

That was a violation of every protocol established by the School District for all schools.

The protocol is listed as follows:

  • An adult who wants to check out a child from school must first go to the administration office and show proper identification.
  • The administrator is then supposed to refer to the child's file to make sure the person requesting the child is authorized.
  • Before the adult and child leave the building, the administrator is also required to physically observe the two of them, to make sure the child recognizes the adult and is comfortable in his or her presence.
  • Clearly, none of that occurred at the school on Monday morning.

    Other parents are outraged.

    "It's nonsense that somebody can come into a school building and sign out a child,"Donnisha Brown told Action News.

    Andrea Echandy had to show I.D. to pick up her kids Tuesday. But she said it's the first time she's ever been asked.

    "I had to show my I.D.," she said. "They have never asked me for my I.D. I just automatically go in there and get my kids."

    The School District is now circulating a letter to all staff reminding them of the procedures to follow.

    "We are reviewing all of our safety protocols at all of the schools. And we are communicating - re-communicating to every other school today about the appropriateness of following those procedures," explained Dr. Hite.

    The District says it is still gathering facts about the lapses that occurred at Bryant Elementary School.

    Hite says there will be consequences.

    The School District says it will no longer assign classes to the male substitute teacher in the child's classroom pending the outcome of an investigation.

    It has also removed the non-teaching assistant otherwise known as a 'NTA' from the security desk who allowed the kidnapper to go to the classroom and retrieve the child without going through the office.

    "The District has to collect a lot of information as a result of this. Once we collect that information, then we're going to take the action with the individuals who were involved," said Dr. Hite.

    Meanwhile, the Teachers Union says it will not sit idly by and allow its members to be made scapegoats.

    "We are not going to let any of our members be railroaded," Jerry Jordan, the President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said.

    The School District maintains that school personnel are required to go through annual school safety training, but the union questions whether the substitute teacher had been properly trained.

    "I can't imagine that the substitute teacher knew the protocol for an early dismissal from the school. I just find it hard to believe," Jordan said.

    A District spokesman says school policy does allow school staff to ask anyone with a face covering to remove it to make proper identification.

    There was a school police officer assigned to the school, but he was in a different part of the building.

    Investigators do believe that the person responsible is known to someone in the child's family.