Posted by: Ticktock | October 5, 2010

Abduction at my Daughter’s School

Yesterday, I interviewed Christie Barnes, the author of Paranoid Parents Guide. As I was speaking with Christie for “Parenting Within Reason”, a student as my daughter’s school, Sierra Holley, was in the process of being abducted. Sierra’s estranged mother waltzed right into the school, made a bee line for Sierra’s classroom, and spun a quick lie to the teacher before kidnapping her daughter. Unbelievable!

It’s a sad irony that I would be talking about issues such as abduction and school safety with an expert on parental fears while a girl was being kidnapped at my own daughter’s school. And yet, this incident is entirely consistent with the information provided by Christie Barnes in her Paranoid Parents Guide book. In 2002, statistics reported by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showed that there were 203,900 children who were kidnapped by their own family. In that same year, the number of kids who were kidnapped by strangers was 115. None of this condones the mother for taking her child without custody, and of course, the rare events of stranger kidnappings are indeed serious and heartbreaking. But, it’s important to put things in perspective when we worry about strangers scooping up children everywhere. Kidnappings are extremely rare occurrences, and most are done by family members who don’t have custody.

You might also remember that I ranted about our school’s lock down procedures, and how useless they are. Guess what? I was right. If somebody wants to walk in a school and go on a shooting spree or abduct a child, they will find a way to do it. The fact is that securing the perimeter did not help. The teachers need to be the last line of defense for this sort of incident. I’m pretty pissed off that this teacher just allowed her student to be taken away by an unauthorized person, but maybe there’s more to the story that I’m missing. I’m also sure that this teacher must feel absolutely awful for what happened, and that she’ll be reprimanded appropriately.

One safety feature my school did employ during this incident was a security camera that was able to catch the mother in the act of abducting Sierra. I truly hope this girl will be returned unharmed as soon as possible.

Now there’s a waiting game to see whether my daughter’s school over-reacts to this incident. It depends on the pressure that parents put on the administration, but I’m guessing that there will be an overcompensation of security policy. Note to my daughter’s school… just train your faculty to never let children leave with random unauthorized people. Really, this is not hard.



  1. Agreed, lets not just throw up more illusions of security, they obviously do no good.

  2. All doors are locked and security cameras are currently being installed at my daughter’s pre-school. To gain access, we as students and parents have to wait for one of the employees of the school to open the door. What routinely occurs is that there is nobody at the door, which creates a lineup of people waiting to get in. This isn’t so bad when the weather is nice, but I will not be happy if I have to what out in the rain or snow. Also, if I wanted to grab my kid, all I would need to do is wait for another parent to exit the school. Nobody is stopping me and checking for identification. Cameras and locked doors don’t work. If the school wants better security, they need to higher people to work the doors all the time.

  3. Is this just a custody issue, or is there really an expectation that the girl’s mother might harm her?

    Was the girl removed by force?

    It’s very hard to tell from the post whether this is an actual “security” or “safety” issue at all, or just a fight between the parents about who the girl lives with.

    • The girl’s guardians do not expect that the mother will harm her. The police are not worried about that.

      The mother lives in Alabama and hasn’t seen her daughter in years (from what I gather). She showed up wearing a wig and deceived the teacher into thinking that she was returning with the girl to the principal’s office, but instead of going there, she took her from the school and vanished. Nobody used force, as far as I know.

      I think the security issue is having an unauthorized adult walk into the school during classroom hours completely unnoticed, take a child out of the classroom without the teacher stopping her, and then walking out of the school with a child for whom she did not have custody. To the school’s credit, the teacher did check on whether the girl and her mother arrived at the principal’s office and told them to call the police when she realized something was wrong.

      • When I was young, it was certainly possible for an unauthorized adult to enter the school, and I don’t recall it being a problem, mostly because we knew that the child was an important line of defense — “who are you, I’m not going with you!” versus giving a hug to mommy. I’m not defending any of the actors here, or itching for schools to be crawling with people who don’t belong there, just commenting on the absurdity of treating it as a systemic physical security problem.

        The security camera footage shows her walking on her own and hugging the woman. Presumably she knew it was her mother. If the girl left knowingly and willingly with a noncustodial parent, I find it very hard to point the blame at any of the teacher, school, or security protocols. It’s just one of those things that’s really hard to find a good solution to.

        I still can’t tell from either this post or the news report in the link exactly what happened in the classroom. Did she say “I’m her mom, we’re going to the principal’s office,” and then just left the building? Or was there a more elaborate ruse? Or did the teacher not even notice that the girl left until afterwards?

      • it was not systemic. It was human error. The teacher made a mistake and ignored protocol, but she also notified the office to call the police, so she’s not entirely irresponsible.

  4. For a short time I worked at a local community center. I mostly kept the indoor playroom tidy, but one time I helped out in the very short term daycare for parents wanting to use the sports facilities (I used it when I went swimming at the center’s pool, or tried to… I was called out because my toddler son screamed).

    After the stated hour of closing there was one child left, and the daycare director had to leave. So I stayed with my toddler and baby to wait for his child’s mother. Unfortunately a man came in saying he was the child’s father and that he was picking him up. I looked at the child’s paperwork and there was no father listed, only the mother. The child also did not even glance at the man, not even a glimmer of recognition. So I refused to let him take the kid.

    He got angry, and being that he was a weightlifter it was frightening. He said the mother was watching the bicycles and sent him up to fetch their son. I still said “no.” He finally left, and then the mother did come in saying that she just realized that her boyfriend, the father, might not be allowed to pick up her son.

    I ran into the man later, and he apologized and actually thanked me for being cautious. And yes, he was the child’s father, it is just they lived separately and the whole situation was complicated.

    But I will tell you, he could have grabbed the boy at any time and ran down the stairs. I though would be yelling down the stairs for the folks at the desk to call the police.

    Around here, it is the story of Kyron Horman, who was last seen four months ago by his step-mother at school, but he was marked absent.


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