A 6-year-old special education student, who is deaf and has vision problems, wandered for more than a mile after school staff lost track of her, according to the girl’s mother.
The child, distraught and crying, was rescued by a homeless man who discovered her on a busy road that feeds into a Houston freeway, authorities said.
Mercedes Polk said she went to Lantrip Elementary School last week, as she does every school day, to pick up her daughter, Serenity. But her little girl was not there, and Polk said school staff didn’t seem to know where she was.
“No one was concerned. Everyone was so nonchalant,” she told the Houston Chronicle.
“The teachers kept giving me excuses that they were looking for her within the school, the mother told KRIV-TV. “They were saying she might be at the playground. She might be in the bathroom, but it was over an hour. So I started freaking out even more,” the mom told the station.
She was later contacted by police, who said her daughter had been found on a busy street, the mother said. A homeless man, standing near the freeway entrance, had seen the girl walking alone, wearing a shirt with Lantrip Elementary School written on it, the mom and authorities said.
The man had summoned authorities, Polk said.
When Polk went to retrieve her child, Serenity was hysterical and shaking, the mother said.
Serenity had been mistakenly placed in the school’s group of students who walk home after school, the mother told the newspaper. The child then tried to walk home by herself and became lost.
The Houston Independent School District said in a statement that officials are “actively investigating the incident at Lantrip Elementary. Student safety is our top priority, and while we cannot comment on the specifics of the incident at this time, Campus and Division leaders will communicate with students and families as we work to strengthen our systems so to prevent future issues.”
Local media reports said the Texas Child Protective Services are also investitating the incident. Inside Edition Digital has reached out for comment to the agency and to the school.
Polk said she is very thankful to the homeless man who helped her daughter.
“He did save her life. Something definitely would have happened to my baby. She could have got hit by a car, kidnapped, anything,” Polk told KPRC-TV.