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‘He’s Just 5’: Family Outraged After Boy Found Walking Down Street ‘Crying, Sweaty, Shaking’ Hours After Teacher Says He ‘Wandered Off’ and She Doesn’t Know Where He Is

A Florida mother wants answers from her 5-year-old’s school after officials after he went missing for hours after dismissal. Teachers said they did not know the child’s whereabouts, despite him being left at the school by the parents earlier that day.

Brenda Thomas, young Jayquan Rigdell’s great-grandmother, usually picks up the young boy at 1:30 p.m. every day after school. Thomas stated, “They know every day I’m here getting my grandbaby.”

However, when she arrived at Montclair Elementary School in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, Sept. 2, the little boy was not there.

According to the family, his teacher told them he “wandered off,” and that the school did not know where he was.

In an interview with WEAR-TV, Thomas said she asked, “What you mean wandering off?”

The educator shared he was prepared to be picked up, but at some point, disappeared; and no one on the school staff knew where he could’ve been. In addition to the alleged negligence, the boy’s relatives said the teacher was not willing to help find him.

Rigdell was later found, safe and sound, by a search party organized by family members and friends. The team located the child in their neighborhood two hours later.

The great-grandmother is asking “how did the child go missing?”

As she retold the story to reporters, the matriarch said, “The principal ain’t anywhere to be found! Or the teacher!”

“Why didn’t you stay there to help my grandmother find your student? That’s not ok! That’s not someone you want watching children,” Rigdell’s mother said.

Thomas said after the school seemed to not know where the child was, she went looking by herself.

“I didn’t know where my baby was, so I thought somebody maybe got him,” Thomas said. “So, I rode all around Montclair, Ayers Blvd., everywhere looking for him. I got back to the school and told them I still couldn’t find him.”

Family and friends found Rigdell walking down a local street.

“Found my baby down Montpellier, walking! Crying! All sweaty, scared, shaking!” the great-grandmother said.

“My baby’s still scared,” the mother interjected. “He’s traumatized because he didn’t know if he’d make it home.”

Rigdell’s mother said as of Tuesday, Sept. 6, Riddell’s teacher, the school’s principal and district officials have not reached out to her.

According to Florida School District Duty of Care, school districts in the state of Florida have a “responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being” of students enrolled in their programs.

Some experts argue there is a “duty of care” expected of educators charged with temporary guardianship of children through the school day, typically from 8 a.m. to dismissal and that the school could be liable for negligent supervision, based on Florida Statutes for Early Education.

“He’s just 5 y’all,” Thomas said. “All these human traffickers … all these kidnappers… Anybody could’ve got my baby and I would’ve never seen him no more.”

Thomas said she wants the school to “be held responsible” for her grandchild temporarily going missing, saying, “I’m not gonna stop until I get answers.”

The Escambia County School District has not released a statement on what happened at the school, resulting in one minor going missing from their custody.

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