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Kidnapping at School: What Went Wrong?

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A Philadelphia police car is seen parked outside of Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia. A Philadelphia police car is seen parked outside of Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia.
West Philadelphia -

Many parents at Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia are unnerved by the kidnapping that happened inside the school Monday. 

They're unhappy with both the school and the district, for good reason.  District officials say they have good security policies in place, but none of them were followed.  And that allowed the kidnapper to have free rein.

Bryant Elementary School isn't exactly in the safest neighborhood, So you might think security would be extra tight.  But when the victim's mom talked to school officials Monday afternoon, "They didn't know nothing," Latifah Rashid insisted.  "It's going on 3:30 and they didn't know where my kid is."

The kidnapper had talked her way past a hall monitor and took the girl from her class, violating every security procedure the district had put in place.  A district official says a visitor is supposed to sign in at the front desk and show photo ID.  If they're picking up a child, their name must be on a list provided by a parent.  Only then will the child be escorted from his or her classroom.  "A student should never be released to an adult from a classroom," Philadelphia School District Spokesman Fernando Gallard told Fox 29.  "The release should only occur at the main office."

But that didn't happen either.  The victim's substitute teacher allowed the kidnapper into the classroom.  Taja Henson's daughter saw it happen.  "She said the teacher was nervous to let her kind of leave out the classroom, but when I asked, did he call somebody to ask was it okay for her to leave, she said no," Henson said.

"They didn't check ID, they didn't call me," Latifah Rashid, the victim's mother, added.  "The substitute teachers says that he asked the mom if she wanted to sign (the victim) out.  The woman said, oh I already signed her out at the office."

"Clearly it seems that the substitute teacher was not aware," Gallard said. "These policies have been around for a very, very long time."

That begs the question: why didn't the substitute teacher know the procedure?  The parent of a child in the victim's classroom told Fox 29 that class has had three substitute teachers since the start of the new year.  

District officials say they spent the day Tuesday making sure every principal of every school in the district knows the policy. And follows it.

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