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Parents say Chaparral, CUSD need to better warn families

At the April 21 school board meeting, two Chaparral Elementary parents took a moment during public comment to express their dissatisfaction with the way the school and the Claremont Unified School District at large handled a recent kidnapping scare.

As reported in the April 22 edition of the COURIER, a man allegedly attempted to coerce two local children into his car on Tuesday, April 12.

The first incident occurred at 3 p.m. when a man driving a dark four-door sedan reportedly pulled up in front of Chaparral Elementary School and told a fifth-grade girl to get in the car, according to Claremont Police Lieutenant Aaron Fate.

The girl refused and, when she walked toward the principal, the suspect drove off. Claremont police were notified and took a report, during which time the girl described the driver as a Hispanic male, around five-foot-eight, with a bushy mustache.

The next morning, another Chaparral student reported an attempted kidnapping, which allegedly occurred the previous afternoon.

A 9-year-old boy said he was at Chaparral Park at 3:20 p.m. on April 12, shortly after the first incident, when a man drove up and offered to give him a ride to his mother. At one point, the boy told police, the man got out of his car and opened the right passenger door for him. Again, police were notified and took a report.

The school principal acted quickly with regards to the first incident, sending out an email notifying Chaparral parents of the attempted kidnapping at 8:45 p.m. on April 12. 

That wasn’t good enough, according to the two moms who spoke at the school board meeting. The women were identified on their blue card as Jennifer and Christie and declined to give the COURIER their surnames.

One of the women, who said she’d been under a great deal of stress following the recent incidents, said she didn’t read the email warning Chaparral families about the first reported kidnapping attempt until the following day. By that time, she had already allowed her daughter to walk to school with her friends.

“Something could have happened to her,” she said.

Many people don’t check their email that late in the evening, she noted. What’s more, some people don’t have email at all. As a result, she said some Chaparral parents still hadn’t heard about the attempted kidnappings two weeks after the fact.

She said a better course of action would have been for Chaparral principal Lisa Yamashita and her staff to use the All-Call system, where families at a school site or within the district as a whole are notified of pertinent matters via a telephone call.

The speaker expressed disappointment that she and her fellow Chaparral parents were only emailed about the first incident and not informed about the second. What’s more, she asserted, families at every school in the district should have been notified about the alleged close calls.

Sometimes, she pointed out, when a would-be perpetrators is unable to lure a victim from one spot, they may move on to another local park or school in search of new prey.

“I am so disappointed in the district and in the school,” she said. “I don’t understand. We need to be on alert. These are our kids and we need to have the feeling they are being protected.”

Her fellow speaker shared similar views. She suggested the school and the district err on the side of more communication rather than less.

“If there’s more communication, there is less risk that rumors will spread like wildfire,” she said.

Board President Nancy Treser-Osgood noted that the board is unable to discuss items brought up during public comment that are not on the agenda.

Still, she wanted the Chaparral parents to know, “We have heard your feedback.” Staff, she promised, would be directed to look into the matter further.

A district-wide email reporting both incidents was sent out by CUSD administration on April 22, prior to the meeting.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier