McGEHEE – Head Start officials acknowledge that a three-year-old girl was abandoned the afternoon of Feb. 10 at the agency's center here, but declined to comment when asked for details and if the staffers involved have faced disciplinary action.
McGEHEE – Head Start officials acknowledge that a three-year-old girl was abandoned the afternoon of Feb. 10 at the agency’s center here, but declined to comment when asked for details and if the staffers involved have faced disciplinary action.
Heidi Reed said her daughter, Raylee Reed, was found wandering along Main Street in McGehee by a passerby and wants some answers from Head Start. She said she received an apology, but no answers, and has removed the child from the center.
Reed quoted police as saying officers were notified at about 1:30 p.m. of an abandoned child in a 9-1-1 call from a woman who said a child was walking down the street near the McGehee Head Start Center.
The woman turned around after noticing a man in a truck slowing as he passed the child, and she decided to call police, Heidi Reed told The Commercial. The girl told the woman her name and said “they left me.”
An officer arrived minutes later and found the child the passerby had described, said Heidi Reed. The girl was taken to the McGehee Police Department and her family was notified.
The mother said she did not learn the identity of the woman who called police, “but we know she was from out of town and was headed to Dallas. … We look upon her as Raylee’s guardian angel.”
Police were quoted as saying they found the door to the Head Start center unlocked, with a note posted on the door saying the students and staff were attending a show at the elementary school.
The mother said she becomes frightened each time she thinks of the potential danger her daughter could have confronted.
Heidi Reed said she later learned that Raylee told a teacher she had to go to the restroom as the students were preparing to leave for the elementary school, but when she came out of the bathroom she found herself alone.
Reed said she was not aware of plans for the students to attend a program at the elementary school, adding she was not asked to sign a consent form.
Raylee’s mother says she has no plans to return her daughter to McGehee Head Start.
The girl was enrolled at the Head Start center 2-3 weeks before she was left alone, said the mother, and will not be returning to the center.
Reed she was still upset because no one from Head Start would offer her an explanation.
Rosemary Jackson, the center’s local director, came to the police station that afternoon and apologized, explaining she had not been at work that day and a substitute teacher was on duty, Reed said.
Jackson declined comment when contacted by The Commercial, referring a reporter to her supervisor, Romanda Jordan, at Warren. Jordan would only say that the agency has taken steps to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Jordan referred questions to Larry Henderson, executive director of the Southeast Arkansas Community Action Corp. at Warren, responsible for Head Start in five counties. Like Jordan and Jackson, he would not identify the employees on duty at the McGehee center when the child was left behind or comment when asked if disciplinary action had been taken.
McGehee Police Chief Jim White said two unidentified teachers working at the McGehee center on the day in question were issued municipal court citations for child endangerment in the third-degree, adding they were cited to court on March 27.
McGehee police are conducting an investigation, White said, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services was notified.
Reed said she was attempting to enroll Raylee in a church daycare program, adding that the family may file a civil suit against the Head Start center and the personnel involved, she believes a substitute teacher and teacher’s aide were on duty that day.