A couple is questioning school safety after their 5-year-old son went missing from his elementary school in San Diego's North County.
Escondido resident Peter Flores said he went to pick up his son, Enzo, from Bernardo School at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 11. When he arrived, Flores said the kids were already lined up outside the classroom, which isn’t the standard procedure.
Flores soon realized Enzo wasn’t there.
A substitute teacher was filling in for Enzo’s kindergarten class that day. Flores said the sub told him that an adult male had already picked up Enzo from school.
“I was horrified,” Peter said. “It’s only me who’s a male adult who would pick him up.”
Flores and the principal searched the classroom, library and playground, but there was still no sign of his son. Flores also called his wife, Josie Flores, who rushed to the school in a panic.
Josie said she tried to keep a clear head but, in her words, “In the back of my mind, I wanted to scream at them [the school faculty.]”
Escondido police also joined the search. Officers scoured the area around the school on foot and by air in a police helicopter for signs of Enzo.
Between a half-hour to an hour later, Enzo was spotted in a field about a half-mile from his school. Apparently, Enzo approached a Good Samaritan who started walking him back to school. The child was unharmed.
“When I saw him, I just cried,” Josie said, recalling the moment she was reunited with her son.
It’s still unclear how Enzo ended up the in the field in Escondido.
According to Peter, the substitute teacher later said Enzo left with another boy, not a male adult. But Peter said Enzo told him he left by himself and was “just following directions” when the teacher told him to “just go.”
The superintendent of the Escondido Union School District told NBC 7 San Diego that changes have been made since the incident, and that Kindergarten parents will be getting an automated message Thursday evening about those changes.
According to the district, substitute teachers will now receive a master list of who is authorized to pick up a child.
Subs will also receive clarified instructions on when the children should be released from school, because it appears this particular substitute teacher released students involved in an afterschool program too early.
The substitute in question will no longer be working at the school, and further action could be taken, according to the school district.
After the scary incident, the Flores family is also making some changes of their own.
Peter and Josie have placed a GPS tracking device on Enzo.
Also, they don’t think a master list is enough of a safeguard at school. They think teachers should have photos of people authorized to pick up each child. Also, they want caregivers to sign in and sign out children before taking them home.
“I wanted this to be out there so no other parent would experience this,” Josie said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”