School in hot-seat after child disappears for 3 hours

Mother says daughter was able walk away from her after-school program

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. - A local mother wants answers after she said her 6-year-old daughter was able to walk away from a local elementary school and disappear for hours.

The child was supposed to stay for her after-school program at Winter Springs Elementary, a school that sits on busy Highway 434.

"They walked a good distance on 434 by themselves," said Tiffany Roberts, who has no idea how far her daughter, Haileigh, walked down the busy road without an adult.

Roberts blames her child's school for letting her walk out the front doors with another 6-year-old. Haleigh was supposed to go to her after-school program, but when her mom went to pick her up she had been gone for three-hours.

"I thought she was kidnapped," said Roberts. "I was in tears. I was panicking. That's a mother's worst nightmare."

None of the adults at Winter Springs Elementary could explain where her child went, or why she was allowed to walk out, Roberts told Local 6's Shaun Chaiyabhat.

"They did not know where she was at, what happened to her, where I could possibly find her," Roberts said.

A Seminole County School District spokesman told Local 6 an adult takes walkers, car riders, and after-school kids from class to their designated locations. The after-school group is dropped off in the cafeteria, while the walkers and car riders are taken to the front office.

Somehow, Haleigh left the after-school group and fell in line with the walkers and the district can't explain exactly what went wrong.

School staffers are supposed to do a roll call for each student. Instead, Roberts said the principal blamed it all on her 6-year-old daughter.

"When I spoke with the principal, she told me that it was not their responsibility, that my daughter should have known where to go," said Roberts. "Elementary schoolers period should not be going off on their own alone."

The district plans to investigate exactly how the child was able to walk away from the school and whether staffers failed to follow proper policies.

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