Glencoe Park District reacts to case of unattended child
Don Van Arsdale, Glencoe Park District executive director, at a May 15 district board meeting in which a case of a lost child was discussed. | Irv Leavitt ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 21, 2012 11:10AM
Changes are afoot at the Glencoe Park District after a four-year-old was separated from his group and left alone, without either of two district employees in charge noticing he wasn’t there.
The boy was reportedly found crying May 8 on the edge of Jerry Reinsdorf Field in the rear of the Takiff Center, 999 Green Bay Road, by an employee of Glencoe Junior Kindergarten — an independent, uninvolved organization separate from the district. Just how long the boy was separated and alone is unclear.
The boy had been on the way from the Takiff Center, across the ball field, to one of the greenhouses just to the east, where he and a small group of children were to take part in a “Creative Cookers” kids’ cooking class exercise.
District executive director Don Van Arsdale, on the advice of a district lawyer, said that he couldn’t reveal whether any employee had been disciplined, but only, “The situation was dealt with appropriately.”
Performance of the employees in the incident is not the only concern among district board members.
Park District President Trent Cornell said that not telling parents of other children in the class that something had occurred was a big problem in an age when patrons expect instant communications.
“A lot of things didn’t happen that should have happened,” he said at a district board meeting May 15. “Communication is something that has to improve — absolutely and right away.”
What wasn’t communicated? Parents of other kids in the class weren’t told, and they found out through the grapevine, Cornell said. He found out that way, too, and he said that parental worries fester and become distorted with every hour.
“We want to make sure that all parents are immediately notified, in the class the child’s in,” Cornell said May 17. “Knowing that parents would be talking, I thought that immediately should have been done.
“We also want to make sure the Board is notified.”
District Executive Director Don Van Arsdale said May 21 that he told parents two days after the incident. He said he told Board members promptly, probably by e-mail, but couldn’t find the e-mail.
“I must have made calls,” he said.
Cornell said he had found out about the incident from other parents, and he called Van Arsdale the same afternoon to find out what was going on.
Van Arsdale said May 17 that on the day of the incident, two instructors had started off across the field with a line of kids, one in the front and one in the rear.
“When they got to the field some of the kids wanted to run, and the teacher ran with some of the kids,” he said. “That practice has been stopped.”
At least one boy, apparently, didn’t run.
Van Arsdale said May 17 that he’s found a way to reduce the chance that a small child will be separated from a group. He’s planning to buy ropes with rings attached to them that the kids will hold onto when they’re on the move.
The boy’s father rose to speak at the May 15 district board meeting to ask, in the light of what happened, that four areas be attended to.
Is there a written safety process, and has it recently been reviewed? Is the staff trained in it, and is that training regularly refreshed? What measures are in place for staff discipline? And can communication with parents be improved?
“We’re going to review all of this,” Cornell said. “It’s a huge issue.
“This is our priority.”