EXCLUSIVE: 5-year-old with special needs runs down street after Bay Area school loses sight of him

The boy's mom is questioning why the school staff allowed her son - who is non-verbal - out of their sight.

Melanie Woodrow Image
Friday, October 20, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Child with special needs found running outside EB school
An East Bay family says their 5-year-old with special needs was found running down the street after Del Rey Elementary School staff lost sight of him.

SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KGO) -- A Hayward family says an East Bay public school let their 5-year-old, who is in a class for children with special needs, wander off campus and into the street where a driver found him running more than 1,500 feet away from the school.

Five-year-old JoJo loves superheroes. Monday, the kindergartner had an adventure of his own after he wandered from Del Rey Elementary School in San Lorenzo during recess, after asking to go to the restroom.

"The person on the other line told me they were from the school and that JoJo was missing. I said, 'what do you mean missing,' and they were like, 'well we can't find him' and she asked me does he like to hide," said Tina G.

"I go, 'did you call the police?' she said no, not yet," Tina continued.

JoJo's dad rushed to the school.

"And he called me and said, 'yeah they found him' - he was on Bockman and a citizen had stopped and called the sheriff's office and waited with him," said Tina.

That citizen was Angie Williams, who was driving with her 6-year-old daughter Faith when she spotted JoJo.

"So I turn this corner and I see him run right here and he's still running, but I'm waiting to see if there's a parent - no one came so I turned around in the middle of the street," said Williams who was attempting to block JoJo.

"The thing is, the school is on this side so he had already crossed the street. He ran all the way down here, ran through the stop sign and was going towards the stop light," said Williams.

"He was all the way down the end of Bockman," asked ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow.

"All the way down there," said Williams.

"And he's running the whole time," asked Woodrow.

"Ran the whole time," said Williams.

Approximately a third of a mile.

"I was like, someone's going to hit him and nobody's stopping," said Williams.

Once she and another driver stopped, they called 911. When Alameda County sheriff's deputies arrived, Angie posted a picture of JoJo to the "What's Happening San Lorenzo" Facebook group.

"Does this little boy look familiar to you," Angie wrote.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department tells the I-Team, the little boy walked away from the school just before 10 a.m. Around 10:15 a.m., Del Rey Elementary School called them to report he was missing.

A spokesperson for the school district tells ABC7 News the district is investigating what occurred and that student safety is always its highest priority.

But JoJo's mom Tina questions why staff allowed her son - who is non-verbal - out of their sight.

"I'm just pretty shocked because he's only five and he has special needs - I wouldn't imagine they would let him go on his own to the bathroom," said Tina.

The district's spokesperson tells ABC7 News JoJo's class includes a teacher and two other adults for nine students.

Also that an adult supervises individual students as they enter and exit the restroom.

"The principal called me at the end of the day saying proper bathroom protocol was not followed," said Tina.

"So they let him go and they kept a long eye on him is what they, how they put it - they kept a long eye on him," she continued.

The school has not said how JoJo got out.

"I mean, it could have been so much worse, he could have been hit by a car, somebody could have taken him," said Tina.

"I know that they should be doing a lot more of keeping the kids safe while they're here," said Williams.

"And it begs the question to me if they can get out, can people get in - I mean, they're supposed to be locked down and how safe are the schools," said Tina.

According to the district spokesperson, school doors can be opened from the inside in accordance with building and fire codes, but they are locked to entry from the outside.

The school has an intercom system to monitor the front door area and allow approved visitors to enter.

"Did you go in the street? Huh? Did you get to ride in a police car," Tina asked her son JoJo.

Tina isn't sure how much her son understands about what happened. She's mostly relieved he's okay.

"Thank you Angie for being a kind person, being a kind citizen and stopping and doing the right thing," said Tina.

"I would do it for anybody's kid," said Williams, who says she was recently diagnosed with cancer.

After JoJo was found, Tina says the school did not contact her; she reached out to them.

"The least I expected was I'm so sorry that happened, is he okay," said Tina.

She took JoJo out of his class and is figuring out what's next.

"Frankly, I don't even know if I want him in this district, I'm contemplating that now, what do I want to do," said Tina.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office tells me deputies notified Child Protective Services to report the incident. The district turned down our request for an on-camera interview.

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