‘Our Fault’

Published 10:41 am Monday, October 26, 2015

AHOSKIE – Hertford County Public Schools has admitted negligence on their part after a 4th grader at Ahoskie Elementary School (AES) walked unattended off campus Wednesday afternoon after missing his bus.

HCPS interim Superintendent Julius Walker Jr. told the R-C News-Herald on Friday that he was made aware of the situation on Thursday and immediately paid a visit to the AES campus.

“It was negligence on our part; I informed the assistant principal at Ahoskie Elementary of what should have been done in this case and what measures need to be taken should something of a similar nature happen again,” Walker stated.

“After meeting with the assistant principal, I called the mother of the student and informed her of what actions were taken. We were blessed that nothing happened to the student after he left the campus unattended,” Walker added.

According to the child’s mother, Shanita Horton, her 9-year-old son was scheduled to remain after school on Wednesday as he was involved in a practice session for an extra-curricular activity. However, that practice session had been canceled, unbeknown to the student.

“My son showed up for the practice, and then was told it had been canceled,” said the mother, who resides near the Menola community. “For that reason he missed his bus.”

Horton said at that time her son went looking for AES assistant principal Kim Scott.

“He alerted her (Scott) that he had missed his bus,” Horton said. “She told him she could not call the bus and that he needed to call someone. She then walked away and didn’t return.”

Horton said her son did use a phone in an office located in the front lobby of the school to call home, but didn’t get an answer.

“He only knew one number by heart; she (Scott) didn’t open his folder to help him call more numbers; she didn’t even see if he got an answer,” Horton alleged.

At that point, Horton said her son walked out the front door of the school (although Walker alleged that the student “slipped out the back door” of the front lobby) and walked to a nearby home of a family friend.

“He knocked on the door there, but no one was at home,” Horton said. “He said he then thought of my grandmother’s friend who lives in Cofield. He began to walk, crossed the street, including a busy one at a traffic light, and walked all the way to somewhere just past Ahoskie Food Center (North Academy Street).”

Horton said luckily at that point, her grandmother’s friend just happened to be driving by and her son was able to flag him down.”

“To God be the glory that he heard my son and picked him up,” Horton remarked. “I was in disbelief when they pulled up at the school where I was already sitting in my car waiting because I thought my son was inside the gym practicing.”

What really bothered the mom was that she claimed no one at the school ever knew her son had left campus alone.

“He could have been picked up by a stranger, hit by a car, or dead due to their carelessness,” she said.

Walker confirmed that the incident as explained by Horton was accurate.

“I told the assistant principal that the next time something like this this happened to make sure the student remains with her and make sure they are able to contact someone,” Walker said.

“Something like this isn’t supposed to happen,” Horton said in response to questions posed by this newspaper on Friday. “Yes, Superintendent Walker contacted he and let me know what should have been done and what needs to be done if something like this happens again.

“I feel that she (Scott) should have showed way more concern; she should have made the call for him, and if not she should have at least made sure someone answered when he made the call,” Horton continued. “If there was no answer, she should have pulled his file and called his emergency contacts until getting an answer.”

Horton alleged that Scott said she walked away from her son because she had a meeting to attend.

“If that’s the case then there are two adult women that worked the front desk at the school; she (Scott) could have made them aware of his situation and let them help my son,” Horton noted.

When asked if she was considering taking further action, Horton remarked, “I am seeking legal advice because I’m new to this type of situation, but I want something done. It could have been worse, and it’s not just my child as there are plenty of parents speaking up about similar situations. It has to stop and I want to stop it before it’s too late.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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