Six-year-old with special needs found wandering freeway after school sent her home

A six-year-old girl with special needs was found wandering down the side of a busy road in Houston, Texas, after a school mistakenly sent her home on foot.

Serenity Polk, a Lantrip Elementary School student, was spotted walking on a strip of a very busy Cullen Freeway on 28 September when a man experiencing homelessness who is known to stand with a sign by Intersection-42 spotted her.

The first-grader’s mother, Mercedes Polk, 40, told Fox 26 that her daughter is deaf in both ears and has vision problems. She said the little girl was in hysterical tears when they were reunited.

“A homeless man that holds the sign right there on Cullen and I-45 found my daughter,” Ms Polk said. “He contacted the school. The school went to get her. She wouldn’t get in the car with them. So the school contacted the police. She wouldn’t get in the car with the police and that’s when they called me. All that time I thought my daughter was in the school building.”

Ms Polk, who recently lost her husband, turned up as she does every weekday to pick up Serenity from school when she was met with “nonchalant” excuses by teachers saying they were still trying to find her on the grounds.

“They were saying she might be at the playground. She might be in the bathroom, but it was over an hour. So I started freaking out even more,” she said.

After an hour, Ms Polk followed an assistant principal a mile away to a 7-Eleven, where the school’s principal and Houston police with her daughter, reports Click2Houston.

Serenity told her mother she was trying to find her way back home.

At the elementary school, children are divided into two lines, one which sends kids home who are registered to walk back and another who waits for parents to come to pick them up by car. All the children have different colour badges to identify how they get home.

Serenity was left unharmed after the incident but was shaken by her experience


The Houston Police Department said that school officials informed them that a substitute teacher covering Serenity’s class placed her in the wrong line.

Ms Polk’s daughter ended up walking a mile away from her school when she ended up next to the busy feeder road.

Before Serenity was located, all kinds of thoughts started to fill the anxious mother’s mind.

“I just lost my husband, now I’m about to lose my child. I didn’t know if she was raped, murdered, kidnapped, hit by a car,” she said.

Luckily, the homeless man saw that the girl was lost and called the school that was displayed on her shirt.

“My fears are this could happen to another child. My child could have died,” Ms Polk said.

The mother wants to find the homeless man to thank him as she believes he “did save her life.”

Ms Polk told the Houston Chronicle that she has been pushing the school for some time to get Serenity a ride in the “special needs bus.”

Lantrip Elementary School, where Serenity was sent home by foot by a supply teacher

(Google Maps)

“If they would have done what they were supposed to do by accommodating my baby with transportation… I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

Texas Child Protective Services said it is investigating the incident, yet the Houston Police Department is not investigating as they do not believe it to be a criminal event.

The Houston Independent School District, which Serenity’s elementary school is part of, also said they are investigating what happened that led to one of their students facing danger.

The HISD said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle: “Student safety is our top priority, and while we cannot comment on the specifics of the incident at this time, Campus and Division leaders will communicate with students and families as we work to strengthen our systems so to prevent future issues.”

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