Mother of 5-year-old who slipped out of school meets with superintendent

Mother of 5-year-old who slipped out of school meets with superintendent
Elijah told WTVY that his teacher sent him to the gym unsupervised and, when he arrived there, he became intimidated by what he termed a large number of people. That's when he left the school. (Source: WTVY)

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The mother of a five-year-old boy who slipped out of a Dothan school unnoticed met with the interim superintendent Thursday to talk about the incident that put that her child in danger.

“We had a good and productive conversation,” Dr. Dennis Coe told WTVY afterwards. He called the situation “unfortunate” and said the matter has been addressed, though he did not elaborate because it is a personnel issue.

First leery of Coe, Sara Carlisle, Elijah’s mother, said she now appreciates the way he has handled the situation. Despite her confidence, she still believes the matter could have been avoided.

“Elijah walked past classrooms and secretaries and out the front door (of Highlands Elementary),” Carlisle said. The boy then traveled north on Brannon Stand Road.

“He had every intention of running home,” Carlisle believes. She and her two children reside about a half-mile from the school.

Elijah told WTVY that his teacher sent him to the gym unsupervised and, when he arrived there, he became intimidated by what he termed a large number of people.

For Coe, this the first major student incident he has encountered since being named interim superintendent on Sept.14. “We are certainly treating it seriously,” he said.

Before the incident, plans had been in place to add surveillance cameras. Coe will also consider other safety measures in consultation with the city’s fire chief. However, he points out that law requires doors leading to the outside of public buildings, including schools, be unlocked on the inside.

Things could have ended much worse for Elijah, had it not been for a Dothan utilities worker who saw him running along the busy highway. He picked up the boy and notified police. Carlisle said, even though 40 minutes went by, the school had not missed her son.

Carlisle fumed for two days but is no longer angry. “I feel bad for everyone in the situation,” she said.

Other than this incident, she praised Highlands' teachers and the school’s principal, Blakelynn Barker.

She also commended police and hopes to personally thank the utilities worker that took her son to safety.

Though forgiving, Carlisle has withdrawn Elijah and his seven-year-old sister from the school, though she may reconsider that decision in a few months.

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