First grader found wandering blocks away from school

Friday, February 11, 2011

A mother is wondering how her 6 year old son could have been allowed to wander away from his school and walk the streets of West Philadelphia by himself.

"I was thinking the worst. I cried and cried many, many times," said Michelle Shaw.

As she does nearly every day, Michelle Shaw showed up at Hamilton Elementary School Thursday to drive her son Mattie and daughter Modesty home. But when she got there, neither was waiting. At first she didn't panic.

"Ok, maybe they tried to walk home by themselves, so I came back here, and I didn't see anybody," said Michelle Shaw.

Understandably nervous, she went back to the school, thinking maybe she just missed them in the crowd of students. This time, Modesty was there, but little Mattie was still missing.

Frantic, Michelle alerted the principal.

"She was calling on the loudspeaker, Mattie report to the office, nobody heard anything," said Shaw.

By that time, right around 3:30, Mattie was already blocks away, wandering, looking for his sister.

"I got lost," said Mattie.

The best police and school officials can figure, Mattie walked away right after his last class, somehow escaping the attention of two teachers standing outside. How far he wandered isn't clear.

He ended up at 69th street station, more than a mile away, on a blustery and bitterly cold winter afternoon.

A Good Samaritan noticed he looked lost, and approached the boy she described as cold and freezing.

"He was looking confused. He almost got hit by a car," she told Matties mother.

Turns out, Mattie knew his mother's cell phone number, so once under the care of police, they were able to call Michelle and coordinate a reunion.

The Philadelphia School District released a statement about the incident, saying they are conducting a full review of dismissal procedures and policies, and that they take the safety and well being of its students very seriously.

"They need more security. They need more eye-watchers because I don't want that to happen to any other parent," said Shaw.

Michelle isn't just angry at the school; she also upset with her son. Though she says he didn't mean to wander that far, he should have known not to go anywhere without her or another adult. Now, she's certain, he never will again.

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philadelphia, pennsylvania, local/state, brian taff
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