School changes policies after girl, 8, sent home with stranger

Local

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Chambersburg Area School District is making changes to its student release procedures after an elementary school student was sent home with a stranger.

Eight-year-old Gabrielle Bender was sick and went to the nurse’s office Monday at Stevens Elementary. Another girl was there, too. Her name was Gabriella, and she had a different last name.

Both were to be sent home. Gabrielle’s mother, Rebecca Quinonez, was out of town, so the school called Gabrielle’s aunt.

“They told her that they made a mistake and that they had sent her with another,” Quinonez said. “She was already here by that time, but they had sent her with another mom’s aunt that hadn’t seen her niece in over a year.”

Quinonez says despite her daughter’s objections, school staff sent her home with a total stranger.

“I don’t even know how it would have happened this late in the school year,” Quinonez said.

When the woman brought Gabrielle home, the mother told her it wasn’t her child.

“She said she got back here and the principal was waiting for her and nobody asked for ID or anything,” Quinonez said. “They just gave her her child and they left and they didn’t explain anything to her either.”

Quinonez says the woman wasn’t on the pre-approved list she gave the school at the beginning of the year.

“Anything could happen,” she said. “They might not have brought her back or something could have happened to her.”

In a statement, school adminstrators said they changed the student release process immediately. The district now requires students to provide a hard copy permission slip signed by their parent or guardian and a photocopied ID of the person picking them up. Before any student is released, a verification call will be made to the parent or guardian to confirm the person’s identity.

“I just hope it doesn’t happen to anybody else’s kids,” Quinonez said.

Administrators said they will continue to refine their pickup procedures over the summer to ensure student safety and security.

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