After-school program in Loudoun Co. faces scrutiny after leaving child alone outside

A mother in Loudoun County, Virginia, is furious with an after-school program that left her 5-year-old son unsupervised at a playground that is not fenced in.

Carlee Stanley said her son spent more than an hour alone at the playground at Little River Elementary School in South Riding, Virginia, after the kindergartner was left behind by the program CASA, which is operated by the Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“They couldn’t even ensure his safety,” Stanley said. “I wouldn’t trust those people to ever be taking care of my son again.”

On its website, the CASA program says it has “successfully provided children (grades K-5) a safe, caring environment,” for “over 25 years.”

But according to Stanley, the program failed to do that during the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 6.

“They definitely should have realized my son was missing,” she said.

Stanley said her son was left outside because CASA employees did not take a proper headcount as they brought children in the program from the playground back into the school.

The child was alone until another mother, who had been at the playground with her children, spotted him and helped lead him to his house. When she saw that nobody was home, she called the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and a deputy helped safely reunite Stanley with her son.

“What if he would have walked himself home?” Stanley asked. “We all know this could have ended very differently.”

Loudoun County spokesman Glen Barbour released a statement to WTOP, admitting the child was left behind.

“It appears there was a failure in our safety protocols, which includes a headcount when program participants reenter the school from the playground,” he said. “The county takes this incident seriously.”

Another statement was sent to CASA parents by Steve Torpy, director of the county’s parks and recreation department.

“The department is conducting an internal investigation to determine why the child was inadvertently left on the playground and why the headcount for the CASA participants who were processing back into the school from the playground was incorrect,” Torpy said. “The reinforcement of preventive measures and safety protocols is underway to ensure the safety of all participants.”

Even so, Stanley said Torpy’s statement was not sufficient.

“I feel that it’s very vague and misleading,” she said. “If you were to read the email and not understand the situation you would think that maybe my son was gone for 5 minutes, which isn’t the case. It was an hour and 20 minutes.”

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