The NY Daily News reports that a nonverbal autistic boy wandered away from his Harlem school Monday and walked several blocks before a cabbie spotted him and called police, the child’s outraged father told the Daily News.
Paris Washington, 5, was playing outside during his 10:30 a.m. lunch break at the Mosaic Preparatory Academy on E. 111st St., near Lexington Ave., when he walked away, said his father, Anthony Washington. “He was found on 115th St. and a cab driver called the police officer and they called us,” he said.
“He doesn’t even really understand, I don’t think, what’s going on. He doesn’t even know the seriousness behind it.” Washington said he got a call around 11:20 a.m. from the school, “telling me they had found” little Paris. When Washington got to the school, police officers were already there, with Paris, to greet him. “They told us he was on 115th and his school was on 111th St., so anything could have happened to him,” Washington said. “We want to shed some light so this never happens again to anyone’s child.”
Paris actually tried to get into the cab driver’s car, said his mom, Tamika Wilson, 29. “Thank God that man had a good heart cause he could’ve said, ‘Get in’ and took him somewhere. Anything could’ve happened to him,” she said. Paris’ brief disappearance comes roughly four years after Avonte Oquendo ran out a side door of the Riverview School in Queens on Oct. 4, 2013.
After an exhaustive search and painful wait for answers, 14-year-old Avonte’s remains were found on the rocky banks of the East River on Jan. 16, 2014. “I was very scared and you know because anything could have happened to him,” Washington said of Paris. “We’ve been telling these people since he started school you have to hold his hand, he’s a runner.
We tell them all of that — he’s a runner. He doesn’t understand danger. And he still happens to get away.” It’s not the first time the school has lost track of Paris, his parents said. Last month, he was left behind in a yard during recess, and a teacher had to come back outside to get him, they said.
Paris attends a special class, with an eight-to-one student-teacher ratio, but he doesn’t have an aide assigned just to him, his dad said. “We’ve been pushing it, and everything takes time,” his father said. An NYPD spokesman refused to provide information on the incident Monday, referring all calls to the Education Department.
“The school followed protocol and the student was quickly and safely found nearby. Safety always comes first and we will ensure appropriate supports are provided to the family,” Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said Monday. She didn’t describe the protocol or how it was followed, nor did she offer any explanation of how Paris slipped away.