After abduction, Council digs into school policies for early dismissal

Two months after a 5 year old girl was abducted from a West Philadelphia elementary school, City Council held a hearing to examine the school district's policies for early dismissal.

"What I hope comes of this is good public policy," said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who called for the hearing. "It's a teaching moment and all of us are paying keen attention to this issue."

The girl was taken from Cullen Bryant Elementary on Jan. 14. by a woman dressed in Muslim garb who posed as her mother before signing her out of the school. The child was found in only a T-shirt the following morning in an Upper Darby Playground. A month later, Christina Regusters, 19, was arrested and charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, aggravated assault and related offenses.

"What happened here is unimaginable and unthinkable," said the girl's lawyer Tom Kline. "Policies and procedures that were correct and in place were violated."

Since the incident the school district revised its special release protocol -requiring identification checks with every special release and every school is expected to follow protocol, said Office of School Safety Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey.

Both Council members and advocates made a number of suggestions to improve the policy including: establishing a uniform, written policy that can be posted throughout the schools, written guardian approval before a child is released, matching systems to compare on-record identification, refresher courses for all school personnel on the policies and procedures for early dismissal and training for students on what to do when confronted by an intruder.