Here we are in 2013 and it seems we are still in a horrible place when it comes to protecting our children.
On Monday while I was at work, a beautiful young girl by the name of Nailla Robinson was abducted from her elementary school only a mile from my home. Once I heard about it, I was shocked at how it happened. This child was in her classroom shortly after school began and a woman wearing a Muslim burqa (with her face covered) walked into the main office, CLAIMED to be her mother and told them she was signing out her child. They allowed her to sign a sheet stating she was removing the child from school. According to reports, the signature was illegible. The child was allowed to get her things and LEAVE with the woman who blindfolded her and walked her to a house a few blocks away. We don’t yet have all of the details about what these sick people subjected this precious child, but we do know that this amazing angel got away from her captors and ended up only a few feet from my house, under the playground jungle gym.
I am livid as I write this for so many reasons.
The entire Bryant Elementary school at 60th & Cedar Avenue needs to be closed to students as of right now. The entire staff needs to be retrained on how to deal with these types of situations. I wonder how (or even IF) fire drills and shelter in place drills go at that school. And by the way, ALL parents should be checking on these procedures to make sure they are being implemented properly. ALL schools should have procedures for various crises including fire, earthquake and yes, lock-down. The procedure for children being picked up should be practiced ad nauseam; role play during staff development with members of different departments so that EVERYONE ON STAFF is familiar with this policy. Do they even do their staff development??? Staff development days are meant for the people who work at the school to be trained/retrained in how the school works. And yes, shelter in place drills ARE MANDATORY. Every few months, I was coordinating drills of some sort because that is how you run a school. Repetitive and almost redundant practice makes perfect because young minds need that type of molding to retain it. Any new staff members need to be fully trained on these procedures, and if they use substitutes, they should have a few that they work with regularly that have all required paperwork and training. It’s safer, not to mention smarter and more cost effective.
I grew up in this West Philly neighborhood. I played in the surrounding streets with my friends. My first boyfriend lived only 2 blocks away from Braynt growing up. And I volunteered during my senior year of high school at an elementary school on 60th and Cobbs Creek, just up the street from Bryant. I have worked in various schools since then, from a school for disabled and mentally challenged children to a charter school in the heart of North Philly. NOT AT ANY TIME did I see anything as DEPLORABLE as the behavior by the front office at Bryant.
At the charter school, I worked in the front office as an Administrative Assistant. I was responsible for each and every one of those 300+ babies, every day of the week. I was a friend, a disciplinarian, a mother and a father… some of those kids actually called me “Mommy,” and I never minded. Honestly, their parents didn’t either because they knew I was like a mother to their kids when they weren’t at the school. I was looking out for them and I would protect them fiercely.
I had children whose guardians were less than parental, and those students had me. I made sure they ate. I made sure they had someone they could talk to and tell anything, because that is what children need. No, I am not a birth mother on this earth, but I am a mother to every child i meet because they all deserve to be able to trust the people around them.
And never once did I let a child leave my care at any school without speaking directly to their parent, either via telephone or in person, or verifying the identity of the person picking them up. NEVER could I have imagined seeing a woman walk into the office in Muslim garb with her face covered taking a child from my care without SHOWING ME HER FACE. I don’t CARE if you feel it is religious discrimination; show me your face ma’am, or the kid stays with ME. PERIOD.
What is the thought process behind allowing a child to leave school, A FIVE YEAR OLD CHILD TO LEAVE HER SCHOOL, with someone whose face you haven’t seen? I don’t CARE. You can be offended if you want. You can threaten to sue me if you like. You may very well be that baby’s mom. But if I can’t verify it, you can’t take this child. Call the police, raise hell. But guess what? Your child would be safe and you could never say Ms. Bleu let your child get kidnapped from the place where she is supposed to be safest besides her home.
I can’t imagine the trauma little Nailla is facing. The relief she must have felt when her mother wrapped her arms around her for the first time in almost 24 hours. The pain her family felt worrying for all that time and knowing that she was found out in the cold on a wet, muddy playground crouching in fear under a jungle gym, wearing nothing more than a t-shirt. I heard the rain that night. It was loudly pounding my window… and I thought of that baby all night. I never fully made it to sleep. I heard the helicopters fly directly over my home, circling at 5AM and I immediately knew she had been found; don’t ask me how or why. I assumed the worst, that they had found her body in Cobbs Creek Park, behind my house. The relief I felt when I turned on the news at 7AM and heard that she had been found was bittersweet. When they showed an aerial shot of the playground, my heart sank. I knew where they had found her, only a block away from my front door.
Now going home at night feels different. I know that someone within blocks of my front door is a kidnapper and God only knows what else. Apparently, another child/teenager (or possibly another grown woman, as reported today) in the home helped Nailla escape and it is lucky that she did, but now I worry for that child too (if they are in fact a child). Is she a kidnapped girl too? Either way, clearly she is living with people who don’t have any child’s best interests at heart so how do we rescue her? And if she was a part of the plot, how do we find her and bring her to justice? How do we find these disgusting excuses for human beings? By being vigilant my friends, and by getting to KNOW OUR NEIGHBORS, we empower our communities.
I touched on this briefly in a recent post, but I stand by it. If we know our neighbors and the people on our blocks, it’s not only much harder to commit a crime against them, but it’s easier to see who IS committing the crimes among us. Remember back when Big Mama knew all the neighborhood gossip and knew every child on the block and their parent by name? We need that type of community again. When you know those around you, people will watch out for your children. I’ve seen it in North Philly. I’ve seen it in my own ‘hood growing up. It’s real, and until we acknowledge that our selfishness is ruining our communities, it will continue to worsen… but that’s another post. I have said it 100 times since Monday; I’m watching everyone I see more closely. I’m watching the faces of these children for signs of distress. We cannot allow our world to be shattered by these incidents, but we must allow these incidents committed against the most loving and vulnerable of our society to strengthen our resolve to not let it happen again.
My prayers still go out to little Nailla and her family. We WILL find them, and they WILL be brought to justice.