The frantic search for a 4-year-old girl who was missing for several hours after walking away from an elementary school campus in Canoga Park has raised security concerns and angered the girl’s mother.
During an interview Tuesday, Consuelo Tolentino said she received a call Friday from a school official who asked if she had given anyone permission to pick up her daughter, Marisela.
“No, I didn’t,” Tolentino said. “Why?”
“Well, we can’t find your child,” the official said, according to Tolentino.
The frantic mother rushed to Limerick Elementary School, which she said was on lockdown as police and staff members searched for the missing girl.
Tolentino said she was told by school officials that the child had disappeared during recess, sometime between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
“The principal told me, ‘She was right here, crying, asking for her mommy,'” Tolentino said.
Tolentino’s voice cracked with emotion as she recalled the ordeal, saying that her “heart stopped” when her only child went missing.
“I want other parents to know that that school is not safe,” she said. “They reassure me every day that I’m dropping her off, ‘Oh, you’re child’s safe with me.'”
Tolentino said she planned to move her daughter to a transitional kindergarten program at another school.
Monica Carazo, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, confirmed to KTLA that a child was found after going missing from the school last week, but cited confidentially rules in declining to provide further details.
Eric Lace, a member of a local neighborhood watch group, said such a disappearance had “never happened” in the area — “not in the 23 years that I’ve been here.”
He was one of several volunteers who fanned out across the neighborhood during the search for the 4-year-old. One of them eventually found her, a few blocks from the campus, about two hours after she went missing.
“We all came out, and we were all looking around the streets for this girl, because they all need help,” he said. “We don’t have enough police in this area.”
Marisela had been attending the school as part of a transitional kindergarten program. She will not be returning to the campus, her mother said.
On Monday, yet another child ran away from Limerick Elementary, according Carazo, the L.A. Unified spokeswoman. The student went home, which was located across the street, but was escorted back to the school after being followed by a teacher and teacher’s assistant, Carazo said.