Recent Missing Student Case Illustrates the Problem with Student Walk Offs from Schools

When 10-year-old Kit Colburn walked out of Russell Elementary School in Warner Robins, Georgia on May 8th, a 24 agency search estimated to have cost between $32,000 and $100,000 was begun according to the May 18, 2012 edition of the Macon Telegraph.  Fortunately, the boy was found unharmed two days after he disappeared.  In this instance, the student was sent to the office and simply walked out of the building and ran away from home.  The student’s disappearance was apparently not noticed for more than two hours at which point school officials called 911.

This case is a symptom of a significant issue for schools.  Each year, a number of students who are not being supervised properly or who are given passes to the restroom, office or other area of their school are sexually assaulted, die in accidents or leave school undetected. 

I was contacted by a defense attorney seeking an expert witness for a case where a ten-year-old boy sexually assaulted an eleven-year-old boy in a charter school in Pennsylvania after both students were given passes to go to the restroom by teachers in two different classrooms.  Neither teacher had reported either student to the office even though they were both absent from their classes for more than half an hour by the time the assault was reported by the victim.   The school was closed and a large settlement was paid in this tragic case.

Proper policies, supervision techniques and appropriate follow through by school staff can help reduce these types of problems.   Though no fool-proof measures exist, most walk offs can be prevented with appropriate policies and effective student supervision practices.   

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.