Teachers and school administrators have many difficult and daunting tasks. They must teach kids academic subject matter, use of logic, social behavior and a trove of other skills and values. Another heavy responsibility for school staff: They must know where all students are at all times.
The staff at Anderson’s Valley Grove Elementary School fell short in this effort with 8-year-old student Damarion Larry, who reportedly woke up to find himself alone in the school building May 14, hours after the buses had left to transport students home. Damarion called 911, and was later taken out of the locked school unharmed.
That’s lucky, because children of that age might wander away from the building in such circumstances and, perhaps, fall into the wrong hands. Or they could have an accident and suffer physical injury.
Damarion’s mother, Joyce Larry, is upset with school officials. She wonders: How could they allow this to happen?
The short answer to that question: They shouldn’t have let it happen.
According to an internal investigation by Anderson Community Schools staff, the boy had been sent to the office during the school day. Near dismissal time, an administrator told Damarion (not named in the ACS report on the investigation) to go back to his classroom. But the administrator was distracted by an issue in another classroom and did not accompany Damarion to his classroom and did not notify the classroom teacher that Damarion was on his way back.
The classroom teacher assumed that Damarion boarded the bus from the school office without coming back to the classroom. The administrator assumed that Damarion had made it back to his classroom and had been included in the group of kids boarding buses from there.
We all know what assuming can do, and in this case it did it.
It’s unclear where, exactly, Damarion was at the time kids were getting on the bus to leave school. But one thing’s for sure: He wasn’t on a bus. He apparently never left the building and may have fallen asleep near the end of the school day.
In the aftermath of the incident, ACS Superintendent Felix Chow said the corporation would institute a new administrative procedure; children will always be accompanied by an adult when they are sent to or from a classroom to another location in the building.
That makes a lot of sense. But it begs the question: Why wasn’t that already the policy?