CBS47 Investigates: Special needs child missing from school for over an hour

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The mother of a special needs child is demanding answers from the Fresno Unified School District, after her daughter went missing from school for over an hour.

Naica Cavazos says she was was never notified and neither was law enforcement.

The incident happened Thursday morning at Ayer Elementary School in southeast Fresno.

Cavazos says, “They all failed. It is their responsibility not only to teach my child, but to keep her safe and make sure she stays on school grounds.”

Cavazos says from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm school officials were searching the campus.

Cavazos says it all began Thursday morning after dropping her daughter, 11-year-old Lauryn off at school.

She tells CBS47 she ran to a few places and only went home to wait for a maintenance man to fix the air conditioner.

She says it was 11:45 am.

The she heard a knock at the door, it was her daughter.

“She was screaming, she was crying, she was hysterical,” says Cavazos.

Cavazos says after calming her daughter down and waiting for the crew to finish their work, it was 1:15 pm.

She says during the entire time, she never got a call from the school.

So she drove to the school and kept Lauryn in the car.

She walked inside and asked school officials, where’s my daughter?

Cavazos said she was told the principal and vice-principal were in a meeting and she spoke with another school official.

“She asked me how do I know Lauryn is missing? I said I have her in my car. She said let me get someone you can talk too,” says Cavazos.

Cavazos then spoke with the principal.
 
“She said she’s aware of the situation and according to her staff members, they were actually looking for her on the school grounds,” says Cavazos.

But an hour and half later?

Plus not notifying parents or police that a child is missing?

In an emailed statement to CBS47, Fresno Unified admits in this instance, “There was a breakdown in the site’s protocols and as a result, parents were not notified in a timely manner.” 

Public Information Officer, Vanessa Ramirez says, “School site administration conducted an investigation and gaps have been identified and addressed with staff to ensure yesterdays missteps are not repeated.”

Cavazos says she has talked to her daughter about never leaving school again.

So what does Fresno Unified do if a student comes up missing?

Ramirez says, “In the event a student is reported missing from their classroom staff immediately contacts administration and support staff and an on campus search is initiated.  Bathrooms, the library, playgrounds and other classrooms are searched.  In the event the student is not located, staff contacts local law enforcements along with the District’s Communication office who deploys safety support. Parents are also contacted.  In the event parents cannot be reached, a school staff member makes a home visit.”

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