Mom: School allowed child, 5, to walk home without adult

Orange County Public School now making changes to dismissal policy

WINTER PARK, Fla. - For the second time in less than a week, a Central Florida elementary school allowed a child to walk away from school Thursday, a mother said.

Morgan Dixon said she is outraged that Killarney Elementary School in Winter Park sent her daughter Channing, 5, home against her instructions.

"She's little, and she's young, and my first thought is, 'She's wandering around not knowing where to go.' Someone could pick her up. Someone could steal her,'" said Dixon.

Dixon said she normally drives Channing home from school, but Dixon said that she called the school Wednesday to say she would walk with her daughter home instead.  According to Dixon, her daughter was already gone when she showed up at Killarney.

"Immediately, I panicked," she said.

A spokeswoman for Orange County Public Schools said Dixon never said she planned come to the school to pick up her child nor did she give instructions for how her daughter was supposed to walk home.

In a statement, district spokeswoman Kathy Marsh said, "A red flag went up when the teacher learned the child would be walking home because the child always rode home in a car. When the teacher learned that the child would be walking alone and there were no instructions regarding another adult walking with the child, the teacher immediately paired the student with another student who walks home in that direction so the new walker would not feel alone."

But Dixon said that's not true.

"I asked specifically where to go to pick her up so we could walk home," Dixon said. "I'm very frustrated with how it took place and how no one really seemed to take responsibility. All the blame was put on me."

Even Channing's teacher had concerns about sending that little girl home alone, so she paired her up with a friend and the two 5-year-olds walked home unattended, Marsh said.

According to Marsh, nobody at the school asked Dixon exactly how her child should walk home because it's the parent's responsibility to give the school instructions for their children.

Dixon said she believes the situation could have been avoided if adults at the school escorted her child to the office so she could pick her up.

The mix up has prompted the school to make immediate changes.

Beginning Thursday a teacher will escort the kindergarten walkers to the front of the school where they will meet an adult or parent who walks them home.

Marsh says the school principal also reiterated to teachers to contact parents directly if they have any questions about a students change in plans.

The changes are not district wide they only apply at Killarney Elementary School.

Marsh said there is no district-wide dismissal policy for what to do when a parent's plans change. Instead, schools create their own procedures on their own. That is the same for Seminole County Public Schools, where on Tuesday, Local 6 broke the story of a 6 year-old who was lost for hours after being allowed to walk away from her school instead of attending an after-school program.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.