Lower Moreland School District posted an Important Parent Notification Letter last Friday to inform parents of an incident involving a student at Pine Road Elementary School.
The letter stated that a child was approached by an older man in the driveway of her home after he was dropped off by the school bus in Justa Farms. The incident took place around 12:30 p.m. after a half-day at school. The bus driver saw the child step away from the man and decided to take action. The bus driver exited the bus and confronted the male who was described between 50 to 60 years old, black and gray hair and driving a dark, possibly, black sedan.
The man said he knew the child, but the child told the bus driver she did not know who the man was. The bus driver then took the child back on the bus and returned her to Pine Road Elementary School.
Police are still actively investigating the incident that occurred on Jan. 31. According to the letter police are trying to determine if the man was a "Good Samaritan." The child was reportedly safe and out of danger, but an incident like this strikes a nerve with all parents in Lower Moreland.
Maureen McGinley lives on the street where the incident occurred and has two daughters who attend Pine Road, one in first grade and one in fourth.
"I was shocked to read the school district's letter and learn that the incident was so close to home," McGinley said. "My husband and I chose to raise our children in Lower Moreland for the school district and quiet suburban neighborhood. It's sad that we need to have these difficult conversations with our children to keep them safe."
The School District posted a note on Pine Road section of its web site labeled "Important Parent Notification Letter," but the Lower Moreland Police Department has posted very similar incidents dating back to December that occured in two different locations other than Justa Farms.
From the Lower Moreland Police Department:
12/12/12 Suspicious person
Incident occurred at 0810 hrs on Grasshopper Road. A juvenile was waiting for the school bus and observed a man drive up near him and park on the street. The male seemed to be staring at him and did this for about 3 minutes before driving away. Description of the male is 50-60 years of age with salt and pepper hair. The vehicle involved was a gray mini van with an Eagles plate on the front. Another incident occurred on Elbow Lane and it was reported that the same vehicle stopped and the man was taking pictures. Please report any suspicious activity of this type immediately to the police.
"I believe our community needs to have all of the information available so we can all keep our children safe," McGinley said. "I would have preferred to have all of the information available, including the police report information relative to additional incidents in our community back in December. I'm not sure if the school district administration had these details. I hope they would have shared the information if they knew about it."
The School District stated they are urging parents to have conversations with their children about talking to strangers and the dangers involved, but parents like McGinley still are nervous after an incident like this.
"I am definitely more nervous having my children take the bus to school," said McGinley. "I worry what will happen if I am not at the bus stop when they arrive each day and have made back-up plans just to be sure they stay safe. The girls know what they need to do if mommy or daddy aren't there to meet them. It's sad that we need to have these conversations with children who are so young. It's hard to know where to draw the line when having the discussion so they are safe and know how to handle themselves, yet are not scared to go to school every day."
Below is the letter posted to the Lower Moreland School District web site:
Today I was contacted by the Lower Moreland Police Department about an incident that occurred on January 31, 2013, which was an early dismissal day for students at Pine Road School. The police have been investigating this incident since they were contacted about it on Monday, February 4. They called me to share the results of their ongoing investigation.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., a Kindergarten student was being dropped off by her bus at her stop in Justa Farms (Sipler Lane and Gantt Drive). The bus driver observed the student go to her house and wait at the front door and then look in the driveway to see if cars were parked there. The bus driver then observed a male approach the student. The male was approximately age 50-60 with black and gray hair and driving a dark, possibly, black sedan. This male spoke to the student who stepped back from him. Observing this, the bus driver approached the male who said that he was a neighbor who could watch the child. The child stated that she did not know him. The bus driver took the student back on the bus to return her to school.
The Lower Moreland Township Police Department was informed of this incident by the student’s parents. The police have canvassed the neighborhood in order to determine if the person was, indeed, a “good Samaritan,” who was trying to be helpful. They have not as yet been able to locate the person in question, but they are actively continuing their investigation.
They have asked that, if you recognize the description of such a person who may live in the Justa Farms community, you call the Lower Moreland Police Department at 215-947-3132.
I would also ask that you speak with your children about what to do if they are
approached by a stranger. Our school counselors are excellent resources whom I would encourage you to contact if you need information on safety awareness for children. Thankfully this student is safe and we will continue to work with the school community and the Lower Moreland Township Police Department to ensure that all of our students remain so.
Marykay Feeley, Ed.D.