MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -The family of a first grade Fitzpatrick Elementary School student wants answers after their 6-year-old left campus during the day without administrators or teachers noticing.
Rod Knight says his nephew Tyler nearly beat the front door down to get inside. When Knight opened the door Tyler was breathless, ringing wet with sweat, and terrified.
“He was literally scared to death,” Knight stated.
Knight attempted to calm Tyler down who was still too shaken to speak, and promptly called Fitzpatrick Elementary to find out why he was home early.
“I called and said ‘are y’all aware my great nephew Tyler O’Neil Knight is not in the building,’” Knight asked. “And she said ‘huh?’, she said hold on one second, and the principal came on and asked where was the child, and I said ‘he’s right here with me’.”
Knight says the principal and the P.E. teacher pulled up within minutes.
“When the PE teacher got out of the car he went into a panic attack,” Knight explained.
Knight was concerned Tyler was having seizure, and called 911. The teacher told Knight what happened in class.
“The P.E. teacher said he told him he was giving him to a monster that eats bad kids,” he explained. “He admitted that, he said he was just using that tactic to the get the class under control.”
Tyler was on the playground at the time, and learned the teacher saw him run away.
“He saw Tyler when he left, called him by his name but he got away from him,” he explained. “He never went to look for him, didn’t get on his walkie talkie out and call the office, nothing.”
Emergency personnel attempted to calm Tyler, Knight said the fire medics asked the teacher to leave to help control the situation. It's unlike anything he's ever experienced with his nephew.
“He’s not a child that’s scared of anything, he’s probably one of those that would try to scare you,” said Knight. “He’s a football player, he’s always running, flips on his head. That’s what scared us yesterday to even see him in such a panic with his shirt wet with sweat.”
To fully gauge Tyler's fear, he ran through the school and out a door near the lunchroom, through a nearby apartment complex, another neighborhood, and through several turns that all add up to around a mile to his house. WSFA observed the same roads he traveled to be packed with traffic, many cars were speeding in a school zone.
“Just look at the area we are in,” Knight said. “It’s just by God’s grace a car didn’t hit him, somebody didn’t snatch him up, or he had a heart attack from running so hard and being so terrified.”
Knight said the principal sat outside the house with Tyler and himself for nearly an hour, talking through what happened and attempted to get Tyler to come back to class with him, but he was too upset to go back.
It took all of Knight's physical and emotional muscle to push Tyler to go back to school Friday morning. Knight went inside with his nephew and talked with his classroom teacher, counselor, and the principal.
“He assured me it’s being handled, they are going to put him into another P.E. class,” Knight stated. “We want him to know school is a place you can be safe, even if there are ups and downs.”
Knight walked Tyler back to the P.E. area Friday, even though the teacher wasn't there, Tyler was terrified.
“I believe there’s more to it than a threat of a monster,” he stated. “If you bring that teacher’s name up to him, he goes into a panic attack. We think there’s more to it.”
Knight says he will do anything to make sure Tyler and his classmates are safe, including volunteering his personal time.
"I'll walk the grounds and watch the kids, I'll do whatever it takes to keep these kids safe", Knight said. "Someone's got to do it. That's a 6 year old. We want to build a relationship with the teachers to let them know we are here to support you and we are looking for you to give us the same feedback."
Knight said he had one conversation with the central office, when they requested his side of the story about what transpired. So far, he hasn't had a call back. Despite wanting to be part of the solution to this situation, he feels he's owed information about the incident.
“There’s many unanswered questions," said Knight. “The major one is how did he get off the campus? The second one is why were you not monitoring, and why did you scare him like that? The third one, if you see him leaving, why didn’t you catch him?”