Special-needs student missing for hours after leaving school, family ready to file complaint

Hours-long search included helicopter

SAN ANTONIO – A mother is preparing to take action against the Northside Independent School District after her special-needs child left his school and was missing for hours.

The district believes the boy left Hobby Middle School at about 3:10 p.m. on Mar. 7. After hours of searching, which included a helicopter, according to a police report, the boy's mother said police found him at a Walgreen's at the corner of Prue and Babcock roads, more than 3 miles away, eight hours after he was last seen at school.

However, the district and the boy's mother have different versions of what happened when the seventh-grade student left the school.

NISD spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the boy had an "episode" in class, which was allegedly filmed by an instructional assistant.

"In this particular case he was faster than we were and he left the campus," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the boy bolted from class shortly before 3 p.m. and the school immediately began its "runner plan" to try and find him.

"They were not able to catch up with him in the school,” Gonzalez said. “Subsequently he left the campus. During all that time we had already contacted the mother. Staff was on high alert. Police were notified and we also got SAPD involved as well."

The boy's mother, who did not want to be identified, told a different story. She said school officials let her son walk around the school as a type of calming technique after he left the class.

She said school officials didn't realize he was missing until after she showed up at school after 3 p.m. and began to worry. Both the district and an educational advocate for the family said the boy had run off from school before.

"We feel that there should have been something to protect the student, and he should never have been left alone (sic) to leave," said educational advocate Debra Liva.

Liva says the family plans to file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency about the incident.

"What most parents would want, when you send your child to school at 7 in the morning, they want them to come home like the rest of the kids,” she said.

Gonzalez said the aide who allegedly recorded the boy's incident is on unpaid leave. Videotaping a child in distress in a classroom is against policy, he said.

As for the school's response to the runaway boy, Gonzalez said he doesn't think there's anything more the school could have done, but the incident will be reviewed.

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