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Abduction Attempt Sends Shockwaves Through Earl Kitchener Community

Yesterday's snatching of a child from a playground is being dubbed an "attempted abduction", but it was essentially a successful abduction, followed by a fortuitous rescue a few minutes later.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published October 24, 2014

This article has been updated. You can jump to the updated paragraph.

My daughter goes to junior kindergarten at Earl Kitchener (EK) school on Dundurn Street.

Yesterday, as she and her classmates played during recess, one of her classmates was abducted from the playground.

The story I've heard via witnesses to events mirrors what is being reported in the Spectator today.

Children from the kindergarten classes were playing outdoors when an adult noticed a child crying. The adult asked the child what was wrong. The child replied, "A man just took [child]."

UPDATE: I have been contacted by the mother of the child who was abducted. She wrote, "From what I’ve been told, the account in the news that he was 'lured' away is not accurate. From what I was told by my son's account and the investigator, he was carried out of the playground, over his shoulder" as far as "a few blocks away".

(She also wrote that, "I am desperate to meet, thank, hug this woman who saved my son." If you are that person, please contact me and I'll connect you.)

An alarm was raised, with all adults calling for the child who had disappeared. The remaining children were ordered into the school.

Several minutes later, a woman came running into the school with the child who had been abducted, yelling that the police needed to be called. I believe this is the person identified in the Spectator story as the "witness" to the abduction.

We all owe this person a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Parents Are Notified

Around 2:15 pm, I received an automated phone call from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) informing me that an incident had taken place at my child's school.

The message said a child had been taken but was now safely with his parents. The school was locked down and I was advised that bus service was cancelled and that all children needed to be picked up from the school by a parent or guardian.

This was obviously very disturbing, but my initial reaction was that it was likely a custody dispute of some kind - always unfortunate, but far less menacing than where a parent's imagination tends to go when they hear news of this kind.

Not longer after, however, we learned that in fact this was every parent's worst nightmare: an abduction by a person unknown to the child. A snatching, in broad daylight, from a place where every child ought to be safe and secure.

An outrageous, disgusting and appalling affront to decency, humanity and childish innocence.

The School Responds

In the late afternoon, EK principal Richelle Bratuz posted an update about the incident on the EK website, which read in part:

This has been a difficult day at Earl Kitchener.

At about noon today, a stranger removed one of our kindergarten students from our play area. This led to a prompt response by school staff, board staff and Hamilton Police. We continue to work very closely with police and encourage you to learn more about the incident at www.hwdsb.on.ca/earlkitchener/.

Thankfully, our student was safely returned to school and is with his family.

The update goes on to announce a parent meeting which is taking place on Tuesday, October 28.

Before I continue, let me be clear: I know whose fault this is. It is the fault of the person who decided, against all standards of decency and morality - and common sense! - to abduct an innocent child from a school playground.

That said, the first words I wanted to hear from EK are simple: "We are so, so sorry this happened."

Perhaps EK has been instructed by legal counsel not to apologize. If so, that's regrettable, because I know I'm not the only parent who would appreciate those words. They would be the first step to restoring our trust in an institution that we love.

But I also know that all of the staff at EK must be anguished right now, especially the people who were on that playground.

Trying to keep your eye on all of the kids must be a huge challenge, because there are simply too many of them. Earlier in September, the Spec reported that all-day kindergarten classes were "overflowing" in Hamilton schools, and that's certainly true of EK.

When my daughter started junior kindergarten there were 33 children in her class. A subsequent shuffle took four children out, leaving 29 children who are overseen by just a single teacher and an educational assistant.

Compare this to provincially mandated daycare ratios, which specify at least one adult for every eight preschoolers. Is it fair to expect teachers to be able to keep track of fifteen children at a time? I know that I often have trouble with just two!

We owe it to our educators to give them the resources they need to educate and yes, protect our children. They work hard and care deeply and right now they are in pain.

Now What?

This is being dubbed an "attempted abduction", but it was essentially a successful abduction, followed by a fortuitous rescue a few minutes later.

It's terrifying, and I know that the parents who attend the meeting on Tuesday are going to be experiencing a wide range of emotions, none of them pleasant. It's going to be a very difficult meeting for everyone involved.

I hope that EK staff are able to talk about this openly and sincerely without worrying about legal liability. It can be hard for bureaucracies to respond properly to incidents like this. People need sincerity, accountability, honesty and forthrightness.

We're going to need to hear how this happened, and what is being done to ensure it can't happen again. I'm not expecting armed guards to be posted at the school, and yes, I know Benjamin Franklin's classic line, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

However, I do expect that it should be very difficult for someone to attempt something like this. A review of security is clearly needed and some actions need to be taken.

What would also be a huge relief is if this person was apprehended, described as, "a white male, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, slight build, sculpted cheek bones, pointy nose, longish, wavy, chin-length hair". Keep an eye out, and don't hesitate to call the police.

Lastly:

To the person who intervened: thank you so, so much.

To the child and his family: I'm so very sorry this happened to you.

To all the other people affected: let's work together to make our school and our community safe.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

44 Comments

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 08:49:01

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By Jenifer (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2014 at 16:58:51 in reply to Comment 105572

I actually agree with this comment.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 23:03:42 in reply to Comment 105572

Wow! That's some misandry. Any thoughts you'd like to share on gays teaching? How about Muslims? People born before 1960?

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 10:29:41 in reply to Comment 105615

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By oldcoote (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:14:06 in reply to Comment 105572

wow. man-hater much?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 09:23:19 in reply to Comment 105572

Expressing sincerest relief that the child was quickly rescued and that the school had good response in place. Expressing continued dismay that psychopaths walk among us.

Yet school boards everywhere still advocate for more male elementary teachers.

You just put a knife through the heart of every dad, single or otherwise, that has been discriminated against because of gender, in a country where we're supposed to be past these things.

My best teachers in my elementary school were male. In grade 6 Mr. Findlay was very supportive of my enthusiasm for science projects and helped me build balsa airplanes, even funding a few kids' projects out of pocket because of our low income families. In grade 8 Mr. Cara was a great role model, teaching many great life lessons, with no shortage of surprise dodgeball games.

These are just two examples of teachers that played a very positive role in making me who I am. Nobody teachers ever acted creepy around me. There was only one creep who I encountered during childhood, and it was a weird stranger on a GO bus who "invited" me somewhere once we disembarked. I knew what to do, told this weirdo that people were expecting me, and when I got off the bus went straight to the ticket agent, because I got some good life lessons from teachers on handling stranger threats.

Of course there needs to be good background screening of teachers, good incident response policies, and general vigilance. However your sexism is creepy, sad, and wrong - unless something happened to make you feel this way - which might make your reaction understandable, but it's still not right.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-10-24 09:42:48

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:59:09 in reply to Comment 105575

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:56:43 in reply to Comment 105575

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By Steve (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 23:04:22 in reply to Comment 105592

No you are a troll.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 12:30:13 in reply to Comment 105592

Guessing you're the one with "internal issues".

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 11:13:11 in reply to Comment 105597

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By adrian (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 12:25:20 in reply to Comment 105592

Not a normal impulse for men to want to be close to small kids other than from their own family.

Speak for yourself. I love kids and I love nurturing them. I haven't had too many opportunities to nurture other people's kids, but I coached my kids' soccer team last year and it was a wonderful experience. I may be terrible at soccer but I can tell you that when they left my pep-talk huddles, every kid went onto the field beaming, full of confidence and having a great time.

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By Mother (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 09:30:02 in reply to Comment 105575

My daughter had a male teacher last year in grade 4 who helped her gain confidence and she gained so much more interest in smart board technologies. He was by far the best teacher my daughter had. So let's not say every male teacher is bad!

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 12:00:38 in reply to Comment 105576

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By Jenifer (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2014 at 17:00:40 in reply to Comment 105594

True.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 23:07:12 in reply to Comment 105594

And female teachers should be screened before being allowed to be in the presence of teenage boys, right. Off topic troll.

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 10:19:37 in reply to Comment 105617

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By Jenifer (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2014 at 17:05:51 in reply to Comment 105624

The Graduate and other movies like it come to mind here. Point taken.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 08:55:37 in reply to Comment 105572

And what is your issue with male elementary teachers?

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By Mother (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 08:49:46

Thank you for this. My two kids go to school and there is nothing more important to me then the safety of my kids. My kids will stay home till I am satisfied that my kids school is a safe place. Having said this, my JK kid go to after school program. Due to saff limitations, he sits outside everyday till all the parents pick up their child and he is left outside waiting for him to be taken in and handed over to the after school program. I was really frustrated with all this and now add the latest incidence. It can be any child in the school. We need our schools to be safe and yes EK owes an apology to every parent.

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By Dundaskid (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:36:44 in reply to Comment 105573

Don't blame you for keeping your children home.

Yes, it is hard to look at fifteen kids at a time. However, it is not too difficult to secure a perimeter (fence line) and thwart mentally ill people from plucking kids from our school yards.

Teachers need to be held accountable. They need to apologize.

The truth is that teachers hide behind their union and goof off in their jobs like many people do (on their phones texting etc...). We don't need more teachers - we need people to do their jobs.

Police need to investigate all angles. I hope the citizen who returned the child to the school is in fact a HERO and not somehow related or involved in abduction plot. Hopefully the detectives do a better job investigating this matter than the teachers did looking after our children.

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By ScientistMom (registered) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 19:29:56 in reply to Comment 105582

My daughter is in JK at Earl Kitchener, and I have had the opportunity to observe all five JK/SK teachers on the playground during outdoor playtime, both in the middle (when they would not anticipate that parents are watching) and at the end of the day. I have never seen any of the teachers be anything but attentive to their students - I have not seen any texting, chatting or any other inappropriate behaviour that suggests that they are negligent. Most certainly changes need to be made to ensure that this does not happen again, but it is unfair to blame the teacher without knowing all of the facts.

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By Please (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:01:23

Your spam filter sucks and prevents comments

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:04:56 in reply to Comment 105578

Spam sucks. If you want to avoid the filter, you can register a user account.

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By oldcoote (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:17:37

"Compare this to provincially mandated daycare ratios, which specify at least one adult for every eight preschoolers. Is it fair to expect teachers to be able to keep track of fifteen children at a time? I know that I often have trouble with just two!

We owe it to our educators to give them the resources they need to educate and yes, protect our children. They work hard and care deeply and right now they are in pain."

BINGO. And that ratio changes to 29:1 the second a child scrapes a knee or needs to pee. The full-day kindergarten system has many flaws.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 14:04:20 in reply to Comment 105581

All you need is two adults to watch the gates and the fence for 30 minutes. It's not a monumental task.

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By Dundaskid (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 10:38:06 in reply to Comment 105581

Yes, it is hard to look at fifteen kids at a time. However, it is not too difficult to secure a perimeter (fence line) and thwart mentally ill people from plucking kids from our school yards.

Teachers need to be held accountable. They need to apologize.

The truth is that teachers hide behind their union and goof off in their jobs like many people do (on their phones texting etc...)

Police need to investigate all angles. I hope the citizen who returned the child to the school is in fact a HERO and not somehow related or involved in abduction plot. Hopefully the detectives do a better job investigating this matter than the teachers did looking after our children.

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By Arch (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:08:10

Everyone must stay vigilant in our schools. The Caretakers in our schools are the first ones in the buildings in the morning and throughout the day in the hallways on the lookout for strangers. The secretaries monitor who comes in and out the main entrance. A valuable service by both. The playground should be configured in such a way as to allow only those who are qualified to be there. all others must go through the office

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By Worried (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 12:23:18 in reply to Comment 105584

I think the best solution for the school is to have the young kids (JK/SK) recess time within the school (possibly gym). Unless, they are ready to spend some money and have walls surrounding the school instead of fences (which someone can easily climb over and is always open and not guarded by a staff member).
Now here is the question, in the morning when I drop the kid to the class teacher (he/she) is primarily responsible for my child. During recess or when the school time is over, I don't have the class teacher with my kid. A different teacher is looking after my kid and 28 more kids. So, how is the kid suppose to know every time that this new teacher is not a stranger and someone he/she can trust?
My son refused to go to EK school today and I don't blame him for that but primarily the school for taking things for granted.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 13:30:01

This was an absolute lapse in responsibility on the part of the adults that were 'supervising' the children. They don't have to be everywhere at once. Just stand in the middle and calmly survey the exits and the low fence. They were not watching, plain and simple. They didn't even raise the alarm until the child was returned to the school by ANOTHER stranger. This could have been an absolute disaster. I'm still shaken by this. Also wondering if the adults that were supervising this child yesterday are back at work today? Still 'supervising'?

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 14:27:21

This is a disturbing story. My heart goes out to those directly involved, especially to the abducted child and his family. I hope the school board is reviewing security policies not only at this school but all schools.

Comment edited by jeff on 2014-10-24 14:44:13

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By Eli (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 14:50:58

Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I share many of your thoughts and concerns. My child is in their class too, and it is a terrifying thing to know their classmate was so easily taken. I am grateful to that wonderful person and her good instincts that saved him, and really hoping to hear (soon!) specifics on how EK will make recess time safer for our little ones.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2014 at 14:57:07

The police just issued a news release update:


Update: October 24th, 2014

The Hamilton Police continue to investigate the incident that took place at Earl Kitchener Public School yesterday afternoon when an unknown man removed a kindergarten student from the playground.

Police remain in the area, canvassing residents for additional information. There are also a number of School Liaison Officer’s in attendance at the school.

Police ask that if you have information and have yet to speak to police to please call Division One Staff Sgt’s at 905-546-4725 or 4771. If you see the suspect in the area please call 9-1-1.

Citizens have been contacting us and we continue to follow up on all leads. Our focus right now is speaking to the individual responsible for taking the child.

Hamilton Police wish to remind all students walking to and from school that they should be aware of their surroundings and circumstances. If at all possible they should walk in pairs or with an adult. If they encounter anyone unknown to them, they should immediately contact a responsible adult, guardian, school staff member, their parent or the police, as soon as possible.

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 15:16:09

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 15:41:48

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By Steve (registered) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 23:10:44 in reply to Comment 105610

You being "right" is god thanking. Compassion for victims would seem more appropriate, but you being "right"" is obviously more important to you and your well being/self importance.

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By Jenifer (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2014 at 17:07:39 in reply to Comment 105618

Steve, I think 'internalissues' raises some valid points, even if offensive. The truth is stranger than fiction.

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By Eli (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2014 at 18:27:12

See the Director's statement on the EK website? Utter gall to refer to this as an attempt to remove a child - directly before quoting the police report that acknowledges that the man did, in fact, remove a child from the playground. Seems your concerns about spin/distancing were apt...

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By internalissues (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 10:13:58

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By Mother (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2014 at 21:42:19

insidehalton.com/news-story/4943938-how-did-no-one-see-child-snatched-asks-mom/

I hope parents and community can push the school to make it more secure. Looking forward to the meeting and what the school wants to say. I am not expecting school will make any major changes as I doubt they even realize it was a fault from their end.

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By notthesun (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2014 at 14:15:04

Adrian writes--"It is the fault of the person who decided, against all standards of decency and morality - and common sense! - to abduct an ***innocent*** child from a school playground." 'Innocent' child? How about just "child?" You're not a Sun columnist. You don't mean that there's bad kids who should be, right. Your points are strong without adding some kindof definer here. Child. period

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2014 at 17:26:36

Hamilton Police just issued the following update:

Update: October 27th, 2014

The Hamilton Police have identified the individual responsible for the attempt abduction of the kindergarten student attending Earl Kitchener Public School.

The male was apprehended under the Mental Health Act on another matter.  He was placed on a form and taken into custody and remains in a secure facility.  

As a result of the continued investigation the male has been identified as Dakota HART, 47-years-old of Hamilton.  

A warrant for his arrest has been sworn to and will be executed upon his release from the facility.

HART will be facing charges of Forcibly Seizing a Person (kidnapping), Assault with a Weapon and Breach Probation.   

We wish to thank the public and the media for their assistance during this investigation.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-10-27 17:28:54

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 06:35:29

Hamilton Police issued another update on October 30:

On October 30th, 2014 shortly after 4:00 p.m., the Hamilton Police executed an arrest warrant for Dakota HART. HART remains in police custody and will appear for a bail hearing tomorrow morning. HART is facing charges of Forcibly Seizing a Person (Kidnapping), Assault with a Weapon and Breach Probation x 2.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 14:37:34

Hamilton Police issued another update on October 31:

On October 31st, 2014 Dakota HART appeared for a bail hearing at the John Sopinka Court House. He has been remanded into custody and is scheduled to appear for a bail hearing on Wednesday, November 5th.

In addition, further charges have been laid including Assault and Breach Probation x 2. These charges are stemming from a separate and earlier incident occurring September 10th of this year.

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