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Lorain mother upset after 5-year-old left elementary school unattended

Child was later found wandering the neighborhood
Lorain mother upset after her 5 yr. old left elementary school unattended
Posted at 9:58 PM, May 26, 2022

LORAIN, Ohio — Johntasia Smith told News 5 she's dealing with many unanswered questions after her five-year-old daughter was able to walk away, unattended, from Helen Steiner Rice Elementary school in Lorain on May 23.

Smith said she went to the school to pick up her daughter from the office for early dismissal, but when she arrived at the school her daughter was nowhere to be found. Lorain City Schools later confirmed the child was able to exit the school through a side door.

Lorain mother upset after her 5 yr. old left elementary school unattended
Lorain mother, Johntasia Smith, is hoping Lorain Schools will release details on its new elementary school security plan

“If my kid was able to walk out of a side door, where were the other teachers to be manning that door," Smith said. "When I got there and didn’t see her in the office, I was asking where’s my child and they’re like let’s check the bathroom and see if she stopped in the bathroom. She wasn’t in the bathroom, so now we’re all scrambling to find her and she’s nowhere to be found. They’re like well the last time we have her on camera is at 2:30 in the gym, it’s been 30 minutes, where’s my five-year-old at.”

Lorain City Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham confirmed the child was later found by a woman in the neighborhood outside school property. Graham issued a statement and told News 5 that the incident has the district changing building safety protocol at all 10 Lorain elementary school locations.

"We are incredibly grateful for the quick action of this kind citizen, and for our strong partnership with the Lorain Police Department to ensure the safety of this child. The happy ending to this story is a direct result of the kind of community we live in. Lorain is a place where everyone watches out for one another, and we are so proud to be a part of it."

Lorain City Schools put new safety protocols in place at its elementary schools as a result of this incident to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

Northeast Ohio school safety expert Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, told News 5 that school districts and daycare facilities need to make sure they have adequate staffing and training to insure child accountability is maintained.

“The number one tool for school safety is supervision, supervision, supervision," Trump said. “Actively supervising, training staff to be mindful, cognitively aware of what’s going on in their surroundings, situational awareness and making sure they’re accounting for all students. As adults we cannot cut corners on supervision, we can’t send kids out on their own in the hallways to the office with the hopes that they’ll get there.”

Lorain Schools said individuals with safety concerns should report them to Lorain City Schools at 440-830-4004, or the Lorain Police Department at 440-204-2100. In the case of an emergency call 911. Additional information about Safety and Security in Lorain City Schools can be found online.

Meanwhile, Smith is demanding the school district release details on its improved security plan.

“I would like a printout of their safety protocol, because when we realized she wasn’t in the school and the door was open and she got out, there really wasn’t anything being done," Smith said. "Everybody was just running around and kept questioning, where is she, where is she.”

“Any changes that are made to the protocol, and even the current protocol needs to be sent out to all family, so we can all be aware of how they handle situations like this when they occur, and how they will prevent something like this from happening in the future.”