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San Diego student with autism walks out of school without staff noticing

Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 23:32:01-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Candalee Carbonel remembers the panic she felt Tuesday when her son's principal called about an incident involving her 7-year-old.

"This is a horrible situation, I pray no other family has to go through this," said Carbonel.

Her son Cole has autism and managed to walk off the Miller Elementary campus in Tierrasanta without staff noticing. He walked about half a mile to his house.

"It broke my heart, knowing I drop off my child every day at school in their hands. They are now responsible to be his safety, to keep him out of danger. This really breaks my heart," said Carbonel.

Carbonel says panic turned to frustration when she learned how the school handled the situation.

"They should've called 911, called the police, then called me, and I could've helped. I could've been somewhere; I could've come home, I could've been here for my son when he was looking for me," said Carbonel.

But instead, the principal went to look for Cole herself, driving to the family's home. She found Cole inside the house, watching television on the couch, and proceeded to take him back to the school and call Carbonel.

"It broke my heart that a little kid could be running the streets, and no one called his mom," said Carbonel.

She's grateful he made it home safe, but Carbonel says she can't help but wonder what could have happened to him on the walk home.

The military family is new to the district, and Carbonel says she's been advocating for her son to have a one-on-one aide as he did in his last school district. She was pushing for more support for her son so that an incident like this wouldn't happen.

SDUSD says as a result of this incident, they are going to add an additional staff member to provide above-and-beyond support to Cole's classroom. They also plan to schedule an Individualized Education Program (IEP) review to reassess his needs.

Miller Elementary's principal provided 10News the following statement:

My first concern was for the safety and well-being of the student. Because he has a significant disability, I knew he would respond best to a familiar adult. That is why I decided to personally go to his home, which is where I suspected he had gone. I was at his home within minutes of learning he had left campus, and after ensuring his safety, I contacted his parents. I certainly understand the concern expressed by his parents, and we will work to maintain closer communication with them in the future.
Jennifer O’Connor Principal