Greenville Co. Schools apologize, make changes after mix-up involving 6-year-old

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) –

The Greenville County School District is speaking out about an incident involving a young student that has drawn attention on social media.

In a Facebook post which garnered hundreds of shares in less than 24 hours, Shawnee Colabella described the incident as “one of the scariest experiences of my life.”

Colabella said her 6-year-old son attends East North Street Academy and rides a bus to daycare after school. On Monday when Colabella went to pick him up from the daycare around 5 p.m., she said she was told he was not there.

When she contacted East North Street Academy, Colabella said the after-school director was uncertain of her son’s whereabouts. Colabella next contacted the police, who arrived shortly before she said the director located the child in their after-school program.

“It is my opinion that the procedures in place are not adequate, the staff does feel that they are accountable for the children they are tasked with and… there is an obvious disconnect in this facility,” Colabella said in her post.

Beth Brotherton, a spokesperson for Greenville County Schools, confirmed the mix-up and issued an apology, saying the district was working to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

“I can only imagine the fear she experienced,” Brotherton said. “As a district we sincerely apologize.”

Brotherton said although it does not excuse the mistake, the boy was supervised the entire time and was never in any danger. She accepted responsibility on behalf of the district for the incident and said Colabella’s son was never blamed for the mix-up.

The child had expressed interest in attending the East North Street Academy after-school program instead of daycare, Brotherton said, but was told ‘no’ by a teacher. She said a sibling of the boy was also absent, which mistakenly led school leaders to believe the boy was absent when attendance was taken on the bus to daycare.

“We are humans and unfortunately assumptions were made,” Brotherton said. “This is a mistake that we can’t excuse, but we have taken corrective action.”

Brotherton said the district is working to change procedures on where paperwork regarding student transportation is stored so it is more quickly accessible. She also said they are instituting procedures to communicate with the school administration when a new child is enrolled in a program.

Another safeguard is being put in place to make sure there is never an assumption that a child is absent if they are not present on a school bus, she said.

Multiple district officials reached out to Colabella following the incident, according to Brotherton. Colabella met with the district on Wednesday afternoon and told FOX Carolina after the meeting that the district and school felt responsible for what happened, and were going to rework policies.

She said she hopes other parents recognize their right to stand their ground on issues involving their children.

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