Being left unattended on his first day of school.
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and unfortunately for one mother in Brampton, it turned into a reality on her child’s first day of school.
The mother tells CityNews her son, who is living with autism, wandered away into a nearby neighbourhood and away from his school on Tuesday.
She says the school knew of her child’s condition and should have done more to protect and keep him safe instead of leaving him alone. Concerned for his safety and privacy, she has chosen not to identify him.
“I felt sick to my stomach. I think I felt all emotions,” she said in an interview. “I did not know how to even process that.”
She elaborates on the frightening moment after she received a call from a stranger informing her that her son was standing alone at an intersection crying.
“Everything went completely black. I asked how she got my number. She said I found some forms inside his backpack,” the mother explained.
Tuesday was her son’s first day in Grade 1. At some point after school, the boy’s mother says her son was released without being passed off to a parent or guardian. It’s then he wandered on his own, traversing through a neighbourhood and crossing a street.
A good samaritan found him about half an hour later.
“The fact that this woman came out of nowhere. I am so just grateful for her,” she says. “It could have ended in a very bad way.”
Mother returns to school looking for answers
After reuniting with her son, the concerned mother returned to the school and spoke with a teacher, who was distraught at what had happened.
“She mentioned that the school is at full capacity now,” the mother said.
Earlier this month, the boy’s parents met with the school and teachers to go over and discuss the child’s needs. They were told that his teacher worked great with children on the spectrum, and this made them feel at ease.
Everything changed on Tuesday, and they’re now trying to determine where to go from here. One thing is certain, the mother says, there isn’t enough support for teachers.
“In Ontario, the schools are at full capacity. Our problem is that the system is going to fail our kids. There will be a lot of distractions and moments when the teachers won’t be able to handle this load. It’s not fair for them, either,” she says.
“They need specialized, well-trained teachers that can handle this. We cannot rely on this government, obviously.”
In a statement issued to CityNews, a spokesperson with the Peel District School Board said officials are grateful the child is safe, noting that the principal met with the parents to go through procedural changes that will be implemented.
“We are taking this very seriously and have begun an internal investigation,” the spokesperson said. “To ensure the safety of our students, we are continuing to examine and evaluate our school processes and procedures.”
The boy’s mother says this shouldn’t happen to any child, let alone a young boy living with autism.
The Ministry of Education tells CityNews they have invested $3.25 billion in special education grants. That includes $16.3 million in funding to enhance support for students with special education needs.
Officials say it’s up to the school board to allocate the funds responsibly.