A 9-year-old student at Catoctin Elementary in Leesburg left school property and walked home unattended during recess on Oct. 3.
The child’s mother, Jessica Salazar of Leesburg, told the Times-Mirror this week that her son, who had broken his finger at recess last week, visited the nurse’s station on Oct. 3 to tend to his injury. Salazar missed a call from the school at 12:19 p.m. informing her of the visit.
Afterward, instead of rejoining his classmates at recess, the child reportedly walked across the street unnoticed. The mother said she called the school back at 12:36 p.m., and administrators were unaware of her son’s absence at the time.
“How do you not see a 9-year-old boy leave the school?” Salazar said.
Minutes later, the child arrived at his house — which his mother estimated is a 30-minute walk from the school.
“He was sweating a lot,” she said, guessing that he might have run. “He said, ‘I was being bullied at school.’”
The mother says she immediately took her son back to school and met with Assistant Principal Jackie Spencer, to whom she explained that her child suffers from behavioral issues and would sometimes follow staff out of previous schools he attended in Clarke County.
The mother told the Times-Mirror she plans to meet with the Principal Janet Platenberg later this month to discuss how the school can accommodate her son’s challenges.
“What if he was hit by a car or somebody kidnapped him? That’s the school’s responsibility,” the mother said. “I’m already going to blame myself because I entrusted the school with my son. It’s hard for me to send my children off to school feeling like they are not there safe.”
Loudoun County Public Schools officials addressed the issue in an email to the Times-Mirror on Monday.
“On Thursday, a student injured their thumb in gym class and went to the clinic to receive treatment,” the statement reads. “When the student was dismissed from the clinic their class was at recess. The student went out to recess and, instead of joining their class, left for home.”
The school system spokesman said “the safety of students and staff is the highest priority of Loudoun County Public Schools."
The statement concluded, “Additional measures have been taken to ensure Catoctin students are not alone when apart from their class.”