Parents question Boyle school security

September 19, 2003|GARY MOYERS

An incident Sept. 12 at Woodlawn Elementary School prompted the child's parents to question the school's security procedures Thursday.

Wendy and Chris Plyman said their 5-year-old kindergarten student was left unattended on the playground for approximately 20 minutes. They appeared at the Boyle Board of Education meeting to bring attention to the incident and to request assurances that a similar incident will be avoided.

Wendy Plyman read a letter she said has been sent to Superintendent Pam Rogers, Woodlawn Principal Max Pope and board members in which she outlined the incident and subsequent actions by school personnel. Her chief complaint, she said, is the way Pope reacted to the incident.

She said she visited the school, arriving at 12:15 p.m., and saw her daughter on the playground "looking as if she were searching for someone." After leaving information with the school secretary, Plyman said she returned to her vehicle and drove back to the playground, finding her daughter at the front corner of the school.


"I saw no teacher near her," said Plyman. "I observed two other small children near her, appearing to try and comfort her, but there was no teacher in sight."

Plyman said she went to her daughter and escorted her into the school, only to find out her daughter had not returned to the building with her class and apparently had not been missed by the teacher. She received apologies from school personnel, she said, but was not pleased with the reaction by Pope.

"Mr. Pope told me there should have been a head count, and he told me he would review this at a faculty meeting," she said. "I told him I was upset, and he said he was upset, too. But at that point he just walked away from me. Never once did he apologize, ask if my daughter was okay, or if I was okay, he just walked away from me.

"I never once raised my voice or acted unprofessionally," she said. "But I am very concerned with the way the principal reacted. There was no apology."

Plyman told the board she would like assurances that a similar incident will be prevented.

"I realize mistakes happen, and if (Pope) had looked at me and said 'I'm sorry, we made a mistake,' I'd not be at the point I am," said Plyman. "But because of his reaction, I am concerned whether or not someone can please tell me how my 5-year-old child could be left on the playground for 20 minutes before anyone even realized she was missing? I want assurances this cannot happen again."

Pope was not at the meeting, but said Friday he is "very sorry the incident happened. The teacher involved was on the phone to the office within three minutes to say she had a child missing.

"It is a serious matter and we are always concerned about the safety of our children," he said. "I have met with the teachers involved, and then we brought it up at a faculty meeting to review the procedures again. We cannot emphasize how important the head count is, and we went back over that."

Rogers said she is aware of the issue and had apologized to Plyman, but would not comment on the situation with Pope.

"This is a personnel issue and cannot be dealt with in open meeting," she said. "I am, however, aware of the situation, and it is being addressed."

"We review our safety procedures periodically, and of course, this prompted us to go over them again, with emphasis," said Pope. "This incident should not have happened, and I regret very much that it did."

Board member Tommy McGirr apologized to Plyman.

"It will be looked into," he said.

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