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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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