Missing Children: Why Public Schools Need to Improve Security Policies

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Missing Children: Why Public Schools Need to Improve Security Policies
Learn about the case of Kyle Horman, a child who went missing while on campus, and how this tragedy is prompting public schools to reevaluate their security measures.
Most parents worry about their children being victimized by the class bully or getting hurt on the playground. Few consider the possibility of a child disappearing while on or near school property. However, that is precisely what happened in an Oregon community recently, and it has school officials and parents alike wondering what can be done to enhance children's safety at school.
The Story of Kyron Horman
Kyle Horman is a second-grader at Skyline Elementary School in Portland. He was last seen by his step-mother heading down the school hallway to his classroom on June 4, according to a recent report on ABC News. However, when young Kyron did not get off the bus later that afternoon, his family discovered that he had never made it into his class that day. Although the teacher marked Kyron absent, the school never notified his parents. That oversight resulted in hours passing before a search could be launched for this little boy.
Horman was at school early that morning to show off his science fair project on tree frogs. Because the science fair was attended by many students and family members, there were many more people in the school than usual in the early morning hours. The school does not have video cameras and is set on the edge of deep woods, where it would be fairly easy for a little boy to disappear or for someone to hide him for a period of time.
Precious Time
Although Kyron was dropped off at school first thing in the morning, his disappearance was not realized and reported until many hours later. The Horman family did not know Kyron had not been in his class until he did not come home on the bus that afternoon and his parents called the school.
It is impossible to know whether those precious hours would have made a difference in the search for Kyron Horman. It is also difficult to ascertain whether video cameras in the building might have helped authorities locate other adults Kyron might have been in contact with just before his disappearance. In addition, lax security measures at the entrances of the school might have made it easier for someone to enter the building that had no official business with the school.
The Question of School Security
School security is not consistent from state to state, or even district to district, and that fact has never been more apparent than in the case of a missing little boy. Frustration seems to be cropping up with some Oregon residents, as evidenced by an editorial in the Beaverton Valley Times, which states, "It may turn out that there was nothing Skyline School could have done to prevent what happened to Kyron Horman, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider the possibilities and implement effective procedures to make all area schools and community centers safer."
Portland Public Schools, along with neighboring school communities, are in the process of revamping their policies regarding absent students to ensure parents are notified in the event a child does not show up for class. According to an article at News Source 16 in Oregon, nearby Roseburg schools are also reviewing their absent child policies.
Not all schools call parents right away if a child is marked absent. The Roseburg schools are now reviewing this policy, and schools will contact parents if a child is not present at school. Skyline School is also now notifying parents when a child is marked absent. The Beaverton Valley Times takes the attendance policy a step further by stating, "Calls must be made immediately after a student is recognized as absent. Secondarily, schools should not simply call a home number, but call a daytime number that ensures they can actually reach a parent or guardian.”
KEZI News reported on June 14 that the case of Kyron Horman has shifted to a criminal investigation. According to a report on ABC News, many scared parents have kept their children out of Skyline School during this time because they aren't sure of their own children's safety. School principal Benjamin Keefer understands the concern, and told ABC News, "My children go to this school, so it's something that, for me, hits really close to home."
As the search continues, thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Horman family that little Kyron will be found safe and sound. In the meantime, parents who are worried about safety at their own schools can check with school administrators about policies regarding absent children and parental notification.

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