Metropolitan Police Department (DC Police / MPD)

‘What if She Doesn't Come Back?' Mother ‘Traumatized' After 3-Year-Old Picked Up by Stranger at NW DC School

A mother said she was traumatized after coming to pick up her young daughter from school and being told the 3-year-old had been sent with a stranger.

When the normal school day at Cleveland Elementary School ended at 3:15 p.m., the girl went to an aftercare program as usual.

Around 5 p.m., a man came to pick up his 3-year-old niece. Staff then allowed him to leave a child he wasn't authorized to pick up.

The girl's mother arrived 30 minutes later, but her child wasn't there.

"All the wrong things were running through my mind," the girl's mother said. "What if she doesn't come back home?"

The mother, who asked not to be named, called the police.

After being with the stranger for an hour, the girl was returned to the school about 6 p.m., safe and unharmed.


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The man said he didn't notice he had picked up the wrong child, because the girl had responded to his niece's name.

"Anything could have happened," the mother said. "How could you even make that mistake?" 

This year is the girl's first at Cleveland Elementary School. Things were going well, the family told News4, until this case of apparent mistaken identity.

The mother didn't send her daughter back to school on Monday. Instead, the girl stayed with her grandmother.

The girl's mother doesn't feel comfortable yet sending her daughter back. "What if I come back today and she's not there again?"

D.C. public schools said they are looking into the situation. "D.C. Public Schools is committed to fostering a learning environment where students are safe and secure," officials said in a statement.

This is not the first time issue that caused concern among Cleveland Elementary School parents.

The head of Cleveland Elementary after school program was under investigation for assaulting a child in October. Police said they are not charging that staff member.

The program has been in disarray since that staff member's departure, parents said.

Lacey Thornton, 32, a fourth grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School, was arrested on Nov. 3 after being accused of hitting a student.

Both staff members were placed on administrative leave.

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