Crucial hours lost: Jefferson County School District policies under scrutiny following Jessica Ridgeway disappearance
The disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway from a Denver suburb has riveted the city as all are praying that the missing 10-year-old is found safe. Time is of the essence in any missing person’s case and I can’t help but wonder if Jefferson County School District’s procedures didn’t cost crucial hours in the search.
When Jessica didn’t show up for school at Witt Elementary School in Westminster, the school left her mother a single message on her cellular phone that morning. Sarah Ridgeway was sleeping however and didn’t get the message until 4:00pm.
The school followed established district policies by calling only one number on Jessica’s contact list.
CBS4 spoke to Superintendent Cindy Stevenson and reported, “Stevenson says their attendance procedure is to call the most critical number that a parent assigns. Jessica’s family had multiple numbers listed, but her mother was that one phone call.”
The 7 1/2 hours between the time they left a message for Jessica’s mom and the time she listened to it could have made all the difference in the world. The school’s failure to take extra steps to reach someone to find out why Jessica wasn’t in school may prove to be critical. They had additional phone numbers available to call and did not.
It is tragic and I have to believe that the district is culpable for their failure. They knew a child was not where they were supposed to be and had additional resources available to try to notify someone. They did not.
Parents should be contacting their local school district to find out what procedures they follow when a student does not show up for school.
I contacted Adams 12 Five Star Schools and received a prompt response:
“When a child is not in school, the District practice is to contact the parents/guardians to let them know. If we are not able to contact anyone, we leave a message and continue to call all emergency contacts until we have a contacted someone on the list. We also take attendance twice a day.
”This is not a policy but a practice that Adams 12 Five Star Schools has had in motion for some time.”
This is a more sensible policy than the one Jeffco uses and I applaud Adams 12 for being far more responsible in guarding the well-being of our children.
With two kids not much older than Jessica, it is absolutely horrific to see this story play out. We say our prayers that the Lord may return her safely to her family.
From the Westminster Police Department:
If you have any information about Jessica’s disappearance, please call 303 658 4336 or email PDamberalert@cityofwestminster
Jessica is 4’10″ and weighs 80 pounds. She has shoulder-length, blonde hair and blue eyes. She wears purple frame glasses. Jessica was last seen wearing blue jeans and a black puffy jacket with pink lining. She has a noticeable gap between her two front upper teeth. She also has a sore on the bridge of her nose, just below her glasses that does not heal.