• Tue, Jan 15 2013

Missing 5-Year-Old Girl Is Thankfully Found, But How On Earth Was She Abducted From School Without Anyone Noticing?

missing childIt is always nice to report a child abduction with a happy ending. It’s so rarely the case. We need to take a minute and appreciate that there was a mother out there, terrified and frantic and watching the world crash down around her, who now gets to tuck her baby into bed and kiss her on the forehead. That mother is Latifah Rashid and her five-year-old daughter is Nailla Robinson.

Yesterday, a woman walked into Nailla’s Philadelphia school, signed an illegible name on the school’s sign-out sheet, and removed the young girl from her classroom. Just like that, Nailla went from beginning her school day to “missing child.”

According to the little girl, she was later blind-folded and walked to a house a couple blocks away. Then, hours later, a teenage girl that she did not know walked her to a playground and left her there. There have been no signs of physical or sexual abuse. A kind citizen found Nailla and called the police, who returned the little girl to her mother.

That’s the story of Nailla’s disappearance. And now that we know the story has a happy ending, it’s time to go back and look at exactly how a woman managed to abduct a young girl from the safety of her school without raising a single eyebrow.

Police have video surveillance of the woman who walked into Nailla’s classroom and her removed her from the school. Unfortunately, the evidence is barely useful, because the woman was wearing a black niqab. Nailla’s mother explains the ruse used by the woman:

“[She] told her teacher that she was me, her mother, and that she was taking her out to breakfast and Nailla was already signed out at the office and she took my child and left.”

Nailla’s class had a substitute teacher that day, so she was not familiar with the classroom parents. And no other school employee questioned the woman. No receptionist checked the name scribbled on the sign-out sheet.

Every parent knows that they leave a list of acceptable people to pick up their children with the school. If my father ever needs to pick up my daughter from school, he should have to walk in to the school secretary’s office and show her a photo ID before collecting my little girl. Obviously that didn’t happen at Nailla’s school.

The school released a statement saying that there were major procedural violations that led to the young girl’s abduction. I hate to say it, but I think that part is obvious.

The idea that such a crime could occur has to shock and anger parents, who believe that when they drop they’re children off to school, they’re leaving them in safe hands. It should raise major concerns with the Philadelphia school district, who obviously need to address serious security issues.

At the same time, this little girl was found safe. She was returned home. And even though there’s plenty of anger and frustration to be had, I’m having a hard time feeling anything but relief that this child made it back home.

(Photo: Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

    When I used to work for Carnival Cruises in the children’s youth program, we had a very secure system for signing out the children, which requires not only ID’s, but also that the person signing in the child had to sign them out, or specify in handwriting who they authorized to pick the child up at that specific sign out. I remember people coming to pick up children who were not on the list throwing a fit because they couldn’t leave with the kids, and we would just reply that they should be happy that we wouldn’t hand their children over to just about anybody…

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

    So glad she’s safe, but this is infuriating!

  • Angela

    How horrifying but also so confusing. Aside from the massive incompetence of the school surely the little girl realized that the woman is not her mother. It’s strange to me that she didn’t say anything. Also that this woman must have stalked the girl and concocted a plan to abduct her just to leave her in the park a few hours later? I feel like there has to be more to the story here. Mostly I’m just glad she’s safe and back with her family.

    • LiteBrite

      I thought the same thing too at first. Then I realized that little kids look to the adults for affirmation. The school obviously thought it was okay, so maybe the little girl decided it was too. Also, I’m guessing that if the abductor was not known to the girl, they said something like “It’s okay. I’m a friend of your mom/dad.” My son is pretty trusting, and I can see him buying that line.

  • K.

    There’s like, a million things wrong with the scenario.

    1. If you sign out a kid, schools should not only have records on file detailing who–and ONLY who–the child may be released to, but also require a photo ID at sign-in. This is like, basics–even GIrl Scouts has release forms.

    2. Parents must be escorted by school personnel to and from the classroom AND anyone walking around unescorted who is not faculty or staff or a student should be reported.

    3. Substitutes should be informed ahead of time if a child is going to be collected. If there’s an emergency, then see #2. Either way, a random person (which is who a parent is as far as the substitute is concerned) showing up at a classroom and collecting a kid by themselves should not happen, and if it does, then there should be a procedure in place in which the substitute knows to either call the head office for verification before releasing the child, or automatically sends the person back to the head office for an escort.

    4. Parents should also discuss with their children who is allowed to come and see them. I’ve also known parents who have a “password” that their kids know so that if someone unexpected comes and tells them they’re supposed to take them home from somewhere (school, soccer practice, birthday parties), then the kid should know not to go with them unless the person has the password. Children need to have some sense of procedures for the unexpected ahead of time–young children will follow adults usually without question (and school children are called out of class by unfamiliar adults all the time–for various school-related observations, like speech therapy or medical, etc.). If you want your kid to question strangers, then you need to tell them HOW to do that beforehand.

    But these are things that most schools already have in place. Why this school didn’t is beyond me. It’s frightening that it didn’t. Hoping it’s a wake-up call for schools to review their policies and refresh their faculty and staff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darling.williams.7 Shaira Leah Gomez

    The school is a place to learn and not to be afraid of. This place supposed to be should bring fun towards their learning as they grow – up and a place where in they can feel secured. But what is happening now a days is that, children are afraid to go to school due to unknown danger due to lack of security. I feel so bad when I heard issues like this that is why being a mom we should prioritize the safety of our children. We should be more specific in securing our child’s safety. Together with that let us provide our children this mobile phone safety I got from he internet. Through a single press of a panic button we will immediately be notified that they are not safe, they can also track a cell phone with gps so it so it wont take time searching for them. This may really help protecting our kids when were not with them.