Parents want answers after 7-year-old Hempstead ISD student is found walking alone

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (KTRK) -- Concerned parents want answers after their 7-year-old child walked right out of school and was found wandering blocks away.

Second-grader Valeria Ramirez lives about a mile away from Hempstead Elementary School. Her mom told ABC13 she thought her little girl was safe at school, but instead, she learned she was out dodging cars.

Valeria is said to have left the elementary school Wednesday afternoon, all on her own. The 7-year-old said someone told her that her mom was waiting to take her home, but when that wasn't the case, she ended up walking.

During an interview, Valeria's mom, Mabel Hernandez, said the district failed to keep her daughter safe and is wondering how the 7-year-old left the campus by herself before the bell rang.

As the girl walked, Mercedes Patino and Jovana Lagunes stumbled upon her around 2:30 p.m. Instead of leaving the child alone, they pulled over and called police.

"I saw her with her little backpack, and said, 'Are you lost?'" Patino said. "She started crying and said, 'I'm looking for my mom. I'm so scared.'"

The good Samaritans said they feared the worst.

"My girls are 6 years old. It's scary. We think they're going to be safe there," Patino said.

So what will the district do next?

In part, Hempstead ISD released the following statement about the incident:

"Yesterday afternoon prior to dismissal, a student left Hempstead Elementary School without permission and without staff's knowledge. The District and the Hempstead ISD Police Department are conducting a full investigation. While the investigation continues at this time, it appears the student was off campus approximately twenty minutes before law enforcement met the student and ensured the student was safe. In light of this incident, the District is taking immediate steps to enhance campus safety and security protocols including: increased exterior door and gate lock checks, increased internal security patrol, additional staff training on dismissal procedures, and additional staff training on front-office communications. The health and safety of Hempstead ISD students is our highest priority, and the District will continue to take every necessary precaution to prevent this type of incident from happening in the future. Due to confidentiality laws, the District cannot share additional details at this time.."

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