Hite issues safety reminder

William R. Hite Jr. says his Phila. school plan is workable and revenue-neutral. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

In the wake of the Na'illa Robinson abduction from Bryant Elementary School - an event that officials said revealed serious breaches in Philadelphia School District protocol - the superintendent has sent an email reminding all staff of safety procedures.
Five-year-old Na'illa was taken from her classroom by a woman who identified herself only as "Tiffany."  No school leader was present; the teacher in Na'illa's classroom that day was a substitute. District procedure forbids the release of a student from a classroom.  It also requires the principal or someone he or she designates witness the release of the student from the school's main office.
Schools chief William R. Hite Jr. wrote in an email sent tonight that:
"As part of the ongoing effort to ensure that student safety is an integral part of each school's mission, it is necessary to regularly review school safety plans and District policy. It is crucial that all school staff be aware of safety policies and procedures, as well as their role in implementing them, in order for schools to provide a safe environment for students and staff.

A policy which must be included for review on a regular basis is the Special Release of Pupils, Policy #103.5. This policy is located at http://www.philasd.org/offices/administration/policies/principals/103-5.html. Staff members must be aware of this policy and their role in implementing it.

Policy 103.5 details the steps that must be followed when any individual seeks the early departure of a student. Staff members are reminded of the following:

1.  Only the principal or his or her designee may grant the special release of pupils during the school day.  If designated authority, by your principal, to approve the release of students, you must be fully advised and aware of Policy 103.5.

2.  Under no circumstances, may a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade pupil be released to an adult who is not properly identified.  The valid identification, with a photograph and signature of the individual receiving the student, must be copied and placed in the student's folder.  In addition, school personnel that review the individual's identification, must also check the student's record to determine if the individual is approved (or denied) access to the student by the child's parent or legal guardian.

3.  The early release of all students MUST take place in the school office and not in any other location in the school.

4.  Release of pupils in grades 9 through 12, during school hours, may be authorized for emergency purposes only. The parent must approve the special release.

5.  When a written request to release a student is received, the authenticity of the request must be established. Telephone requests must be carefully screened and authenticated. Parents should be advised that approval of  a student's release, based on written or telephone requests, might be refused.

6.  The following information must be recorded in the school office:

1. Pupil's name
2. Date
3. Reason for the dismissal
4. Time of dismissal and time of return
5. Steps taken to authenticate a telephone request
6. Adult's name and relationship to pupil (pre-kindergarten through grade 8)

The immediate review of this policy by school staff members should take place today. Understanding the policy and implementation of the procedure is essential for a safe environment at your school.

Please contact your principal with any questions.  Your immediate attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.  Thank you."