Missing prep girls spark search
WHEN the bell sounded for lunch two excited and confused tots on only their second day at prep school thought it must be “home time”.
So they slipped, unnoticed, from the grounds of Parkhurst State School and sparked a panic.
Staff frantically toured nearby streets once the alarm had been raised, as the four-year-old girls innocently skipped away.
The furious mother of one of the young absconders claimed yesterday they had wandered along a busy road and through bushland. And they were discovered, she claims, about two kilometres from the school.
She says the thought of what might have happened to her daughter made her sick to her stomach.
The children were unharmed, but the mother, who has asked not to be named, was so incensed she has removed the girl and her sister from the school in protest.
“When the lunch bell went they were confused and thought it was time to go home,” she said.
“I just can’t believe that children who are so young were allowed to walk out of the school, out of the gate and wander off without anyone noticing.
“I was crying all night because I just couldn’t stop thinking about what might have happened to them. They could have been abducted, hit by a car, anything.”
She said it was unacceptable that the school has no safety gate or any other physical barrier that would prevent very young pupils from leaving the school before they were collected by their parents.
The school has moved immediately to address the issue and tighten security arrangements to restrict student movements.
Wayne Butler, Education Queensland’s regional director, said the school had apologised to the parents of the prep students who left the school grounds shortly after the lunch bell at 11.45am.
He said the students were picked up at 12.35pm and that a number of staff were involved in the search.
“No police were involved,” he said.
“All prep students are still settling in and learning new school routines on the second day of the school year.
“This includes locating the toilets, drinking taps, defined eating and play areas, learning the rules of the school and rules about leaving the prep room.
“It is unfortunate that two young children were able to go unnoticed for a short time, and the school and staff treated the issue extremely seriously,” he said.
The principal had reminded staff about being more vigilant and had met with the parents of both children.
Gates near the prep building will now be locked and the school was organising a visit by police to remind students about safety issues, Mr Butler said.
The Morning Bulletin understands that a man whose children had attended the school recognised their uniforms and raised the alarm. The principal raced from the school in his car to retrieve them, but couldn’t find them.
The children were eventually picked up by the man and delivered back to school unharmed.