SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KGO) -- We're hearing from San Lorenzo Unified School District board members after a 5-year-old boy with special needs wandered from Del Rey Elementary School without staff noticing and was found a third of a mile away from the school by a driver.
School board members are now apologizing to the little boy's mother, but it took her going to the school board meeting Tuesday night. There, parents shared examples of their children with special needs being lost by staff during the school day. The president of the California School Employees Association told board members, staff working in special education classes don't have the training or support they need.
"Our special ed program is dysfunctional. It needs help," said Julie Glenn-Juuko, chapter president of the California School Employees Association.
This comes after a 5-year-old boy with special needs left Del Rey Elementary School without staff realizing. A concerned driver found him a third of a mile from the school.
"I am appalled by the district's lack of concern for my son - I called, I left messages that same day for you Dr. Camp - for Kim Noble I left messages, voicemails with your assistants, Dr. Camp, nobody from the district called me back. I'm sure anyone here who has a child or knows a 5-year-old, he was running on Bachman road unattended," said Tina G., JoJo's mother.
"We do take that seriously and we want to make sure that all of our students are safe," said San Lorenzo Unified School District Superintendent Daryl Camp.
Two other parents shared similar experiences of their children with special needs being lost during the school day including Janee Robinson, whose daughter Murphy was lost last year and later found in a classroom.
"We want our kids to learn and have a good environment and be kids, and they can't do that if they don't have the right instructors to help them," said Robinson.
A sentiment echoed by the president of the California School Employees Association who questioned the training and qualifications of the district's paraprofessionals, staff members who assist the teacher in a classroom for children with special needs.
"I thought when this made the news, that we would have some plans in place to get this taken care of - but there's nothing," said Glenn-Juuko.
ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow asked the superintendent about the district's Special Ed program.
"I would say the vast majority of the school days, things work out," said Camp.
"Is it acceptable to you as superintendent for there to be any one day where things don't work out and a child is able to leave the school?" asked Melanie.
"There are a lot of gaps in our school system overall, if you look at various achievement measures across the state there are gaps in systems and we're going to work to improve those gaps in the system," said Camp.
"What is specifically being done to fill those gaps in the meantime?" asked Melanie.
"I'm not going to talk about the individual situation nor the staffing challenges, but our intent is to have every position filled and sometimes we're able to accomplish that in certain areas and sometimes we do fall short of that," said Camp.
For that, board members apologized.
"No system is perfect but what we have to do is hold ourselves accountable," said Kyla Sinegal.
"I apologize for what you went through," said Juan Campos.
Parents hope it's more than empty promises.
"Yeah it's acceptable, it's a day and a dollar short and I had to come here," said Tina G.
"I'm hopeful, optimistic, cautiously optimistic," said Robinson.
Following what happened, Tina G.'s son JoJo is now at a different school within the district. As is Janee's daughter, though her school change was unrelated to her being lost. The district's superintendent says he's proud of school staff and the systems they do have in place.
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