Waterloo kindergartner leaves school; parent, district at odds - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo kindergartner leaves school; parent, district at odds

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Thursday, a Waterloo kindergartner walked home from Irving Elementary unaccompanied.

While there are conflicting stories as to how the child left school grounds, both district officials and the boy's mother agree it should never have happened.

Right before lunch, a teacher's aide brought five-year-old Christofer Velasquez in from recess to use the restroom. Then the aide went back outside.

Minutes later -- and blocks away -- Christofer's grandmother opened the door to find her grandson standing there, all alone.

School officials say they didn't know Christofer was missing until his grandmother called, but would have discovered it after roll was taken at lunch minutes later.

"He didn't know to go to the office," said Casey Velasquez, Christofer's mother. "We never worked through this kind of situation because we didn't think it would ever happen."

Here, the accounts differ. Velasquez said Christofer couldn't find his class, got scared and walked home. District officials said Christofer hid from supervision.

"So he was out of sight of his teachers, but regardless, safety is our number one priority," Tara Thomas, a representative of Waterloo Schools, said. "I'm not trying to make any excuses other than to say the way the situation played out on the surveillance tape is a little different that what may have been the opinion of the child or his mom."

Security cameras show Christofer leaving the building alone, standing by the dumpsters for a few minutes while his class files inside around the corner. Then he runs off-screen.

Christofer only lives a few blocks from the building, but still had to cross busy Fifth Street to get home. His mom said he could have been hurt, or worse.

Thomas said it's common practice for kids to return from the bathroom unsupervised, but that this incident is the exception, not the rule.

"Clearly it was something the district acknowledges shouldn't have happened," Thomas said. "We're going to review, obviously, this circumstance, look back over procedures, protocols in place and say, 'How can we make this better to prevent anything from ever happening like this again?'"

Velasquez said the district should not have allowed her child off-grounds.

"If there are so many children that you can't keep an eye on them, get more people out there so this doesn't happen to somebody else," she said. "God knows where they could be."

District officials are reviewing the case, and will meet with Velasquez on Monday.

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