Autistic boy goes missing from an Akron elementary school

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 1:50 PM EDT
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AKRON, Ohio (WOIO) - A family is seeking answers after their little boy went missing while he was at school.

Making matters more challenging, the family says the child is autistic.

The school is now on the defense, working to ramp up safety and security measures in light of this incident.

Collene Keirns’ grandson attends Ritzman Elementary School. Keirns wanted 19 News to keep his name and face confidential.

Somehow during the school day, her grandson got out of the school building and began wandering the streets.

“I want to know how he got out of the school. Last Tuesday, my daughter went to pick my grandsons up from school, and she was told nonchalantly that he had been missing for 40 minutes and escaped school and was running up and down Canton Road and a stranger brought him back to the school,” Keirns said.

Akron schools provided the following statement:

“Shortly after 1:30, a kindergarten student ran out of his classroom and into the hallway, which triggered the principal to alert all staff to begin looking for him. This student has done this before, and the school has always located him inside the building. This time, however, he made it outside unnoticed. Within minutes, a citizen alerted the school that she had seen a little boy running up Canton Road.

The office staff immediately called Akron police as five staff members including the principal ran outside to find the student. Within 10 minutes, he was located a few blocks from the school and brought back. Within minutes of returning, the boy’s mother arrived at her normal time to pick him up, and the principal alerted her to what had occurred.”

“Us grandparents don’t want to be left feeling as if we did something wrong because our child is autistic,” said Keirns.

Keirns said she wants the school to update its safety and security measures immediately.

School officials told 19 News that Ritzman Elementary School’s principal is working on doing so now.

“I don’t know if alarms need to be put on the school, but I know it has to start before it even gets to the point where he can escape the school,” said Keirns.

Statement from Akron Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack:

“We are grateful the student is safe and grateful for the vigilance of citizens outside of the school who were keeping an eye on where he was going until we reached him. The school responded quickly and searched the building thoroughly. But, clearly, it should have been impossible for him to exit the school. So we are reminded that we must refresh our security procedures and be more vigilant.”