Sunday, like many others in they Philadelphia area, I had a television show interrupted by an Amber alert. A five-year-old girl was missing from her school. Thankfully, she was found…at 4:00 AM, cold and alone in a playground.
The rest of the facts — the ones known up to this point, that is — are frightening. According to the news reports, the girl was dropped at school on Friday by her mom and then taken back out less than 15 minutes later. And, no one at the school reported her missing all day, until someone noticed she wasn’t at her after school program. What the f***? This poor little girl and her poor family…how frightening!
The reports are saying that the woman, with an illegible scribble on a administrative form she was able to take the girl from the classroom. No questions asked, no ID required. The abductor, like the girl’s mom, wears a burqa, and I completely understand, and endorse, the impulse toward cultural and religious sensitivity, but where on earth is the common sense? The two are not mutually exclusive. There’s no reason why an administrator couldn’t respectfully request some more information, especially in light of Newtown, Connecticut, and there’s no reason the school system in Philadelphia — with a very diverse population — was not training staff to better protect kids and to do it respectfully. In this particular case, how about something like, “oh, good morning, Mrs. So-and-so. I’d be happy to get your daughter for you, and in light of what’s happened in Newtown, I’ll just need to see some ID first. I wish we didn’t have to ask this of our families and visitors, but, as I’m sure you can appreciate, the children’s safety comes first.”? Who knows, maybe the child’s abductor would have changed her (or his, I suppose…that’s not been ruled out either) mind if questioned even a bit and taken off? And, on top of that, how does no one notice or report that the child is not there for the entire day? Not in the classroom, not in the cafeteria. No one. Or, will we find out that everyone thought someone else would report it?
My point is, and I know I’m ranting, while we are — rightfully — talking about gun control in the wake of Newtown, another poor kid has to be another example of just how many different ways we fail kids in this country. Since when is it not the adults’ responsibility to keep a close eye on kids and to ask the tough questions if we think there’s possibly a problem? Since when do safety and respect have to be mutually exclusive?
When are the grown ups going to grow up and retake responsibly for protecting children in this country? It may sound cliché, but since clichéa often spring from truth(s), it really does — or should — take a village to raise a childe. Or a neighborhood. Or a town. Or a city…