A Toronto mother was shocked to learn her four-year-old daughter walked out of a junior kindergarten class, got locked outside the school and walked home by herself — all before the teachers noticed she was missing.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t even process it,” said the girl’s mother, Sukhinder Khepar.
Khepar was putting her toddler down for a nap on Monday afternoon, when she heard a knock at the door of her Scarborough home in east Toronto.
She was not expecting to find her four-year-old on the doorstep.
“I just said, ‘What are you doing here? How did you get here? Who brought you home?'” said Khepar.
The child said she came home by herself.
“Then, she started to cry, and I started to cry, and I just gave her a hug.”
‘No one had noticed’
The child was supposed to be in junior kindergarten class at Knob Hill Public School, near Brimley Road and Eglinton Avenue West in Scarborough, which is over half a kilometre from home. Her regular teachers weren’t there, Khepar said, so two supply teachers were filling in.
At some point in the afternoon, the little girl walked out of the classroom, put on her winter clothing and walked out a side door to the playground, she said.
The child says she tried to get back into the school when she finished playing — but the door was locked, and she didn’t know to walk around to the main entrance, Khepar said.
Stuck outside, the four-year-old decided to walk home by herself, her mother said.
Once home, somebody let the girl into their residential building, where she made her way to her mother.
Khepar quickly called the school after finding her daughter.The principal was also shocked, she said, and the supply teachers didn’t realize the child was gone.
“At least 40 minutes had passed. No one had noticed she was missing,” said Khepar. She said there were two teachers and 20 kids in the classroom that day.
School putting in new safety measures
“Obviously, this shouldn’t have happened,” said Toronto District School Board (TDSB) spokesperson Ryan Bird. He says they “immediately began investigating.”
The school is now implementing new safety measures, said the principal in a letter sent to kindergarten parents.
There are now alarms on kindergarten doors, so you can hear when people are coming and going, Bird said.
They also won’t only have supply staff in the classroom anymore — one teacher who is familiar with the students will be there as well, the letter says.
The incident “raised serious questions about how this could have happened,” wrote principal Cathryn Dockstader in the letter.
Staff “will continue to take any necessary steps to ensure this does not happen again,” she said.
Among other safety measures, the school said, will be more head counts throughout the day.
They will only allow students in the hallways while under direct supervision, it said, and they are reviewing safety practices with students and staff.
‘I thought she was safe at school’
Khepar wants to ensure these safety changes are good enough.
The walk home is only eight minutes according to Google Maps, but Khepar thinks of everything that could have happened to her daughter.
The path is icy, she said, and the child would have crossed the bridge. She thinks about strangers, and the path leading into the woods.
Her daughter is fine, but “she’s shaken up by it. I can tell.”
Khepar said she’s lucky her daughter is safe. But she wants do everything she can to hold the school and TDSB accountable — and make sure these situations don’t happen.
It’s scary. I don’t feel comfortable with her at this school.– Sukhinder Khepar, mother
“It’s scary. I don’t feel comfortable with her at this school,” said Kheper, who now finds herself peeking out the window for her daughter.
The mother doesn’t think it will happen again — but she’s more worried these days when her daughter is at school.
“I thought that she would be safe at school,” she said. “But I guess our kids are never really 100 per cent safe.”