Preschool security breach raises safety questions

A woman says she picked up her grandchild at Ascension Lutheran Preschool and no one asked for I.D.
A woman says she picked up her grandchild at Ascension Lutheran Preschool and no one asked for I.D.

One grandmother said she was scared after an incident that happened when she went to pick up her granddaughter from Ascension Lutheran Preschool and Child Development Center.

Candace Ingram's son asked her to pick up his daughter from preschool. The child's mother called the school to let them know Ingram would be coming to pick her up but could only leave a voicemail, which teachers admit they received after the child was released to Ingram.

Ingram's name was on the list of approved people allowed to pick the child up.

Both the preschool staff and Ingram told WAFF 48 News Ingram walked into the daycare, and was allowed into the back of the facility by a teacher through a buzzer and camera security system.

The teacher did not ask her for her name or identification, and Ingram had never been to the facility before.

Ingram said,"I buzzed a buzzer and two seconds later I was in that daycare. They just [said], 'Come on back.'"

Ingram said she walked out on the playground and through the halls of the daycare looking for her granddaughter without anyone checking her identity.

She then walked into a classroom and called for her granddaughter. The child came to Ingram and she picked her up. Ingram said school officials later told her that since the child went to Ingram they assumed it was ok for her to be there.

Ingram asked the teacher where to sign the child out and she did so, but she said no one ever asked her for any identification. She left the facility with the child.

"It's scary to be able to walk into a daycare and to take a child out of there and nobody ask who you are. I mean, I'm allowed to have my granddaughter, but what if I wasn't supposed to have her? I could have been long gone with her," Ingram explained. "It's not about my granddaughter. Its about the safety of all kids. I walked in that daycare and walked out with a child. They don't know who I am, they didn't know my name."

Ascension Lutheran Preschool and Child Development Center officials declined an on-camera interview with WAFF, but they did issue this statement:

"For more than 33 years, Ascension Lutheran Preschool & Child Development Center has had a strong reputation for providing safe, loving care for our students. Recently, we experienced a security incident. We have taken immediate steps to ensure that this will not happen again. The loving care we provide includes security and safety for our children, and we take that very seriously."

Preschool officials said they will check the identification of all persons unknown to the staff before they are allowed to access the classroom and playground areas. They are re-training their staff to remind them of all of the safety policies already in place, and adding some additional procedures to ensure safety. They said this incident was a one-time mistake.

Ascension Lutheran Preschool and CDC is a license exempt daycare facility. Since they are a church-led organization, they are eligible to apply annually for a license exemption from the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

School officials said they are going through the process of becoming a licensed facility and expect to be licensed within a few months.

State DHR officials said all licensed facilities are required to check the identification of any persons not known to the staff before they release a child into their care. They recommended that license exempt facilities follow the same procedures, but they are not required to do so.

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