WASHINGTON - A D.C. mother said she is seeking answers after her 7-year-old daughter wandered out of her Southeast D.C. school.
Shamelia McDuffie said her daughter, Azarria, got locked out of the building at C.W. Harris Elementary School and then walked by herself to a family member’s home. Her mother said even when her daughter returned to the school, she was never notified about the incident.
It happened Wednesday afternoon as the little girl said she left her coat on the playground after recess. Azarria, a first grader, went outside to get it, but the doors locked behind her and there was no one was around to let her back in.
“I was trying to get back in, but it wouldn't work, and I tried the voice thingy and it wasn't working,” the 7-year-old said. “So I went to my sister’s house.”
When asked if she thought about going through the front entrance, she said, “If I would have gone in the front door, I would have got in trouble.”
“I don't understand,” said the girl’s mother. “She went right past security, past the gates, past the cameras and ended up all the way down there past the stop sign on B Street. It’s about three blocks. She had to cross like three streets to get over there.”
After ending up at the family member's home, Azarria was driven back to the school by the relative.
According to the family member, Azarria was out of school for about 25 minutes and teachers were looking out for her. She said she was told to keep the child since the school day was almost over.
But Azarria's mother said the family member is not on the list of people who can take her daughter from school and she never received a call from the school about what was going on. Also, more than anything, she wants to know how her daughter ended up alone on the street.
“She could have got hit by a car – anything could have happened her,” said Shamelia McDuffie. “I just want to be safe. When I drop my child off to school in the morning, [I want] to know that she is safe – in a safe place.”
D.C. Public Schools said in a statement:
“The safety and security of our students is our number one priority. We are looking into the allegation in this incident. We have measures in place to ensure that students and staff are in a safe learning environment at every school, and if those structures broke down, we'll work to restore them.”
The child's family said they are under the impression police were not called when the girl was discovered missing. A school district spokesperson said all proper procedures were followed after the child was discovered missing and police were immediately notified. But D.C. police said they did not hear anything about the incident until 3 p.m., about two hours after Azarria went missing.
When we asked D.C. Public Schools about the time discrepancy, officials said they had no comment.