Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Boy Returned to Parents; Couple Calls for Better Support for Special Kids

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Boy Returned to Parents; Couple Calls for Better Support for Special Kids

Article excerpt

Byline: SIMON CRASE gladstoneobserver.com.au

A NIGHTMARISH experience for a Gladstone couple has left them demanding State Government intervention to improve security measures for vulnerable kids at a school.

Bob and Tamie Bennett received a call at 5am on a Saturday which left them sick to the stomach and reeling from the news they received.

Their eight-year-old son was at a Friday night sleep-over at the Rosella Park Special School, and a teacher phoned the couple to tell them their son had gone missing from the school after 2.30am on Saturday. Fortunately he had had been returned to the school by two police officers a constables John Kerhan and James Brockett a and Kim Rooney and Jamie Ward, a security detail from Bojangles.

"The call was very disturbing, we got the basic details, they told us he was safe," Mr Bennett said.

"We jumped in the car and flew down there because we thought he'd be distressed, by the time we got there, he was fairly calm."

Escaping from the school grounds, the boy then wandered onto the road, over a railway bridge and headed towards a major intersection, a tragedy averted when rescuers happened upon him metres from the Dawson Highway.

"He would have got skittled, because he was walking in the middle of the road straight to the intersection near the Night Owl," Mr Bennett said.

A low-functioning autistic, the Bennetts' son suffers from epilepsy, has a severe intellectual impairment and is completely non-verbal, hence the need for constant one-on-one care.

"We chatted to the teachers and the police to find out what happened," Mr Bennett said. "Our aim is to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

While not blaming the school for the incident, the couple want to see the State Government deliver what they see are critical security needs at the much-respected school.

"This should be a massive wake-up call for the Education Department," he said.

Higher fencing, gates and internal locks on the classroom doors are a must if the children are to be protected.

"We need to realise it's a special school, not a normal school, and a lot of the children have intellectual impairment and not all of them are totally aware of their surroundings and the dangers associated with it," he said. …

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