DALLAS — Officials with the Dallas Independent School District launched an investigation after a 5-year-old kindergarten student was able to walk off campus at Highland Meadows Elementary School unnoticed.
The 5-year-old’s mother, Jenniffer Castaneda, said she didn’t know how her daughter got out.
“I was really shaking,” said Castaneda. “I was really, really upset.”
Everyday, Castaneda walks two blocks with her daughter, Alessia, to school. On Thursday, Sept. 5, she said Alessia walked back in the middle of the day — alone. Showing up at home without warning, she surprised her grandfather when she rang the doorbell.
“My dad said he opened up the door, and he heard somebody crying,” said Castaneda.
Castaneda said her daughter explained she had raised her hand in class to go to the bathroom, but her teacher wasn’t paying attention, and she had an accident.
“She said that he came up to her and he was like, ‘Clean it up’,” Castaneda said.
Thinking her teacher was upset, Alessia said she felt sad.
A Dallas ISD spokesperson confirmed, contrary to school policy, that Alessia was sent to the bathroom by herself, and managed to leave campus.
He said security camera footage showed she was off campus for 20 minutes. He also said school officials were aware a student was missing, and were actively searching for her when she re-appeared with her mother.
A campus wide safety meeting was held Monday, Sept. 9 following the incident, to remind staff of existing policies, and to implement several new ones.
As part of the investigation, officials were also looking into employees’ actions.
Castaneda said her family was upset, thinking how many ways this story could have ended.
“There were so many things that could have happened to her, from being run over by a car, kidnapped,” said Castaneda. “Anything could have happened.”