Hope Mills kindergartner wanders away from class

Posted September 7, 2011

— Safety procedures at Cumberland County elementary schools are under review after a 5-year-old girl wandered away from school after getting separated from her kindergarten class, district officials said Wednesday.

It was Alayna Jensen's first week at C. Wayne Collier Elementary School in Hope Mills. On Thursday, her class was getting ready to go to lunch, but Alayna had to use the bathroom, which is located inside her classroom.

When she came out of the bathroom, her classmates and teacher were gone. School officials said she was in the classroom alone for about 20 minutes before venturing into the hallway. 

A surveillance camera in the hallway caught Alayna leaving the room and heading out an exit door. The door shut and locked behind her, so she started walking to the home she shares with her grandmother about a quarter-mile away.

Alayna was almost at her grandmother’s house when a neighbor stopped her and called the school.

“She was running when my neighbor found her. She was red, sweating, just shaken, scared,” Alayna's father, Robert West, said. “They (the school) didn’t know she was missing whenever my neighbor took her up there, and that was like 45 minutes to an hour." 

West shudders at what could have happened.

“What if she got kidnapped? What if she got run over on that big road by the school?" West said. “You trust the school system to have your kids in there and watching them – and then something like this happens,”

Kindergartner wanders away from school Kindergartner wanders away from school

School officials said that, judging by surveillance video and the neighbor’s phone call, Alayna was off-campus for about 10 minutes.

Her grandmother, Marsha West, who holds a degree in elementary education, at first felt sympathetic toward the teacher. Now, she feels the need to speak out.

“If I didn’t say anything and this happened to another child and another child got hurt, I would have felt guilty,” Marsha West said.

Cumberland County Schools spokeswoman Theresa Perry said the school’s principal met with all teachers that day and reviewed security procedures.

The district has asked all elementary principals to make sure teachers account for all students at all times.

“We simply cannot review safety procedures enough the first week of school, especially with our youngest students. We cannot be cautious enough,” Perry said.

Elementary principals are also being told to make sure students know what to do in case they get locked out.

Perry said the incident is under review to see if disciplinary action will be taken.

Alayna has returned to school. 


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  • tanshop09 Sep 9, 2011

    I am sorry .... All I kept hearing over and over is how the "School Officials" keep on and on with she was ONLY on out for 10 minutes... WHAT???? I don't care if it was 10 seconds!!!! It is almost enough to make a mom sick to think of all the things that could of happened. But what is worse to think of is that it could have only taken just 1 thing to happen and it sure would not have taken 10 minutes for it to have been. Sorry "School Officials" I really hope you DO NOT take more than 10 minutes to review your policy on leaving these very young children by themselves.

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Sep 8, 2011

    I'm sorry AWakeMom..... WHERE in my comment did I dog or down the teacher, OR the child? I said it was "human error" NOT "unacceptable". Dont aim your comment towards me!! It is irrelevant to ANYthing that I said in my comment! With the exception about the door.. If they lock behind you, then they DO lock the children (or anyone else) out! So they SHOULD drill the children on where they need to go to get to an open door after they get locked out! Or maybe the school could invest in a bell for these doors. So that WHEN one gets LOCKED OUT again, they can ring a bell,get attn, and be let back in.

  • barbstillkickin Sep 8, 2011

    Another example of Purdue cutbacks. Not enough people to watch these small children. It is a shame for sure.

  • KiaMom Sep 8, 2011

    I thank God nothing happened to her. However, I been on the side as a teacher and now as a parent. It's extremely hard to watch small children by yourself. All classrooms need at least 2 teachers on PRE-K thru 5. NC should have thought about this during budget cuts when so many teachers lost their jobs.(That's another story for another time) As a parent, I probably would have been upset as well. But it's two sides of a story and most of the time media will blow a situation out of portion.

  • Lab mom Sep 8, 2011

    Im with BJM. I thought that was how they did it. Guess Im wrong. SO glad shes okay. No more head counts????? We even do that at church.

  • mwright9013 Sep 8, 2011

    @AWakeMom - I agree with you when you say that they need to volunteer if they feel the situation is unacceptable.
    Also we don't know the whole story. They could have had a sub that day, the child could be one that wonders off. The teacher may have been dealing with another situation with other students at the time. Unless you have worked in the schools and in the classroom you have no idea!

  • hangry Sep 8, 2011

    teach your kids not to run away from school.

  • AWakeMom Sep 8, 2011

    Con Amor - schools don't have doors that "lock children out" - they have doors that lock predators out.

    We don't know the whole story. We don't know the teacher's side. She could have done her head count, and started down the hall with the kids when the little girl decided she needed to use the restroom. OR - maybe the teacher wasn't paying attention. Things happen in elementary schools. If this situation is "unacceptable" to you - go volunteer your time and make sure it doesn't happen in the schools that are close to you.

  • bowslinger70 Sep 8, 2011

    The Principle and Teacher should be immediately Fired and not allowed to be in charge of Children again. Just because Alayna is unharmed, does not excuse the people responsible.

  • bjm011366 Sep 8, 2011

    taking a headcount before and after leaving the classroom and this would have been avoided.