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Inquiry ongoing after 4-year-old found walking along highway roughly 1 mile from school
From Staff Reports
The mother of a 4-year-old special needs student that walked off his school campus last week is speaking out in support of school officials and how they handled the situation.
Katie Aricer, of Leakesville, acknowledged Wednesday in a social media post that she was the mother of the child who was able to leave Leakesville Elementary School unattended on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Aricer’s post came as school officials said they were reviewing policies and procedures related to the incident.
Officials had released a brief statement Jan. 23, but have not released specific details about the child, including his age, citing privacy policies. The statement from Supt. of Education Charles Breland said the child had “left campus during a class transition,” and that “a search began immediately and the student was found and safely returned to the school.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Aricer broker her silence on the issue, sharing a message with friends on Facebook. The post was not accessible by the general public, but Aricer gave the Herald permission to share her comments.
“I waited to publicly say anything until the investigation was complete,” Katie Aricer wrote in the post. “I’ve heard a lot of hearsay and I’ve kept my mouth shut until I had all of the facts. He is safe and was found not long after he ran off.”
On Tuesday, Breland said the school district’s investigation indicated the teacher responsible for the child noticed “almost immediately that the student was gone” and that a “search began immediately”.
When asked how long the child was gone from the school Breland said that was still under investigation by school officials. It is assumed the child walked along Annex Road to Old Hwy. 57 near Davis Hardware where it was found by a passerby, who then walked the child to the hardware store. Another area resident called the school and told them she was bringing the child back to school. However, on the way to the school, that person was met by school personnel, who took the child back into their care.
Officials with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Leakesville Police Department said they were not notified of the missing child until after the student had been located and were not asked to join in a search. Breland said school security personnel were in the process of calling for law enforcement assistance when the student was located.
Upon arriving back at the school the student was checked out by school officials and parents notified.
Aricer said she was comfortable with the school personnel’s handling of the situation and praised the efforts on Facebook.
“The school did everything the way they were supposed to, by following the correct procedures, and notifying me and the proper authorities,” Aircer wrote. “Campus security was in the process of contacting local law enforcement when he was found. I’m so blessed that God was with Carson and kept him safe during that time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the person that found him walking down the road and stayed with him and made sure he was safe.”
Breland said he could not comment on any specific personnel matters, but confirmed Thursday that the teacher in the child’s class is no longer with the school district.
“While the incident was not intentional, it is nonetheless unacceptable,” Breland said. “While we cannot discuss personnel matters, we can assure you that we will take any necessary discipline actions against any employee as may be needed.”
Meanwhile, Breland added, “all policies and procedures are being reviewed and all employees are being trained in any changes that have been made.”
For her part, Aricer said she harbors no ill will from the situation and hopes the incident can help enlighten others when it comes to the education and care of special needs children.
“I personally don’t hold any blame or hate in my heart towards anyone involved, because I understand anything can happen at any time,” Aricer wrote. “We are super blessed that (her son) is okay, because a lot of special needs children aren’t so lucky when something like this happens.”
“I’m hoping that this incident will remind everyone to be alert and be prepared for the unexpected. I’m glad that the Superintendent, School Board, and Principal, Faculty, and Staff at Leakesville Elementary are taking the time to review policies and procedures and making necessary changes to hopefully ensure that this won’t happen again to any other students.”