Lacey kindergartener leaves school grounds, walks a mile home unnoticed; dad steamed

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LACEY, Wash. — A kindergartener is home safe after a scare earlier this week.  John Canales said his 5-year old son managed to leave school grounds and walk at least a mile home all by himself.

Canales is outraged and shared surveillance pictures from the school, where they show his son, River,  leaving school grounds after passing older students and adults.

Though the 5-year old somehow managed to walk at least a mile to his home safely, his father still has some questions, which prompted him to have River re-trace his steps.

“My mind started racing,” said Canales. “Did he talk to anybody on the way, did somebody drop him off, all the things you think about with the milk carton kids, all the serial killer movies are all the things that were kind of going through my mind.”

North Thurston School District admits this shouldn’t have happened. It led the district to look at security measures at all schools.

“Once we knew he was safe, we immediately started looking at how many adults do we have ... have we trained all those volunteers how not to leave campus,” said Courtney Schrieve with North Thurston School District.

The Canales family has pulled River out of Lacey Elementary. They say he will be home-schooled until the trust in the district is restored.

As for why River left school, he tells his parents he just wanted to give his mom, who was home sick, a hug and a kiss.


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  • BearTex3

    I remember when I was 5, I used to walk about a mile to and from school and my parents never thought twice about it. The only thing they said was the route I took and how long I had to get home. If I was not home at a certain time then I got punished. The bus didn’t pick us up if the school was within walking distance. But we also knew not to leave school until we was told or your would get a paddle on the butt from the school and then a soanking at home. So we learned early to not do that. I do think this parent has a reason for concern but he did over react. With all the kids in schools now days it is hard to keep track sometimes. I think this was an isolated event. Sometimes a kid can escape from somewhere if they really want to. My son once escaped from Chuck E Cheese through the kitchen and once out the front door. Both times an employee just happened to be outside and saw him. I do like this kids reason for leaving. Cute

  • John N

    If a parent had let their child walk for a mile and was found by someone, they would arrest the parent(s) for child neglect. The school should be held accountable just like a parent and someone should be arrested for being negligent in the safety of the child.

  • mephilops

    Really?!?! Discipline the KID! When you are in school you have to ask permission to leave the classroom not to mention the building. Parents teach your kid not to leave school grounds….

  • Lisa

    OMG! This parent totally over reacted! Why wasn’t he at the school picking his kid up on time? And why wasn’t the parent teaching the kid not to ever walk home on his own? Why wasn’t the kid disciplined? Once school is out it’s the parents responsibility to pick THEIR child up on time. It’s no longer the schools responsibility! I’m a teacher and I’m so tired of schools, teachers, and administrators getting blamed for parents lacking of parenting skills.

  • Chris

    That kid is terrible. My son was in his class. There is clear need for discipline for that boy. He is terrible. His mom and dad need to take some parenting classes. P.S. thank you for making that school a safer place for my son by keeping him home.

  • Cindy

    I think there is both to blame, the school because I know they don’t let kids scatter and run to the bus, they are taken by teacher or volunteer. The parent should always speak to their kids about how they get to and from school. He did over react on taking his son out the school.

  • Tanya

    “That kid is terrible”?? This is a 5-year-old! I would never say that about a child. This is my grandson; he is the sweetest, most loving little boy I know. He *is* very active, can be distracted easily, is often impulsive and (obviously) makes some bad decisions. But he is kind-hearted and loving, and would never be mean to classmate. His parents *do* discipline him appropriately, but he still has a lot to learn.

    The point is – River didn’t know he was doing something wrong. He just got off the bus, was thinking about his mommy being sick that morning, and wanted to give her a kiss and a hug. It’s true, his parents (my daughter and son-in-law) had never sat down with him and told him specifically, “You can’t leave school after you arrive.” It’s just not a conversation that crossed their minds. They DID have a talk with him about how he was never to walk off the school grounds during recess. But you don’t think of every scenario that could happen! I can’t say I thought of telling my own kids not to leave campus after arriving at school either – although none of them ever did. River is very independent, gets an idea in his head, and goes with it. He’s still little and hasn’t learned to filter whether an idea is good or not! Some – perhaps many – 5-year-olds may be more mature and less impulsive.

    I’d like to assert that this is a *personality* issue and not a *discipline* issue. His parents trusted that once he was on the bus and in the care of the school, he would be watched over and kept safe. They trusted that the adults at the school would assure that all he and all other kindergarteners were being cared for and escorted properly to their classrooms. I don’t believe that the older students need to be watched as closely, but children this young need constant supervision.

    If a parent were to let their 5-year-old wander a mile away from home because they weren’t watching, the authorities would be all over them! It is unacceptable for this to happen at a school.

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