School district pickup procedures

RICHLAND, Wash. - A missing child at a Richland elementary school touched off another concern about young kids being released from classes without a parent around. A Richland mother told KEPR her first grader was able to wander off campus, and walk half a mile in the wrong direction before she was found and the school wasn't at fault.

Maddie gets picked up daily from Jason Lee Elementary, but on the second day of school, the bell rang, and the first grader was nowhere to be found, she didn't make it to her mom's waiting car.

"Asking different people, have you seen my daughter, do you know where she is, because it's a very small area that they're supposed to meet at and no one knew which direction she went," said mother, Michelle Khabir.

Michelle Khabir tried not to panic as the minutes stretched on, an older woman found the six year old about a half a mile away from Jason Lee, and walked her back toward the school. Maddie was gone for thirty minutes and all her parents could do, was think the worst.

"The wrong person could have found her and at age six, she is completely gullible, she would trust just about anybody," said Khabir.

Prior to this scare, Michelle didn't think twice about school dismissal procedures, she's hoping for tighter control on how kids are sent away from campus.

"I think there needs to be more guidance, teachers should stay with the children at a designated area if they are going to be picked up and at that age group they cannot walk alone," said Khabir.

The Richland School District and Jason Lee Elementary did nothing wrong in this case. There's nothing illegal about a student walking home alone, at any age. Richland Police say there's no age minimum for that and it's not realistic for the school to make sure each individual student is where they should be at the end of the day.

"The grey area is where the bell rings and the teacher feels the responsibility switches to the parent," said Khabir.

When the student leaves campus, the responsibility falls on the parent. Crossing guards can keep an eye out if a young student looks lost, but ultimately it's up to the parent and student to have an understanding of how they're getting home. In this case, Maddie just got confused in the sea of students and tried walking home on her own. Michelle says she only has one reason for telling her story.

"Just to make sure to parents and teachers that this can happen," said Khabir.

We checked with the other districts in town on their procedures, Pasco says no child is allowed to walk off campus without informing a staffer where they are heading. Kennewick never returned our call with its procedures.