MARSHALL COUNTY, Miss. — The investigation into a series of incidents that led to one Mississippi mother believing that someone intended to abduct her five-year-old daughter from school has wrapped up.
WREG spoke to Superintendent Dr. Lela Hale and Principal Bobby Sims of H.W. Byers Elementary on Monday for an explanation. They said a kindergarten teacher spoke to several people on Friday about activities going on at the school. One of them was a parent who told the teacher that she would be picking up her own daughter after school, and to not allow that child to get on the bus.
Due to miscommunication, the child who was supposed to stay was accidentally put on the bus and another child named Alayna was kept behind.
Dr. Hale said when the mistake was noticed they made every effort to get in contact with Alayna's mother, Winter Pritchard, but were not able to reach her by phone. The mother told WREG when her daughter didn't come home she went up to the school looking for her.
Somehow, Pritchard was told someone had called the teacher claiming to be Alayna's mother, leading her to believe that someone was trying to abduct her daughter.
Thankfully, the school district said that was not the case. The teacher did not speak to anyone regarding Alayna, and the girl did not speak to anyone on the phone pretending to be her mother.
The original story appears below.
MARSHALL COUNTY, Miss. — A Mississippi mother believes someone intended to abduct her five-year-old daughter from school.
Winter Pritchard says someone called her daughter's kindergarten teacher five times yesterday, saying they were the girl's mother and would pick her up after school Thursday at H.W Byers Elementary School in Marshall County.
"My daughter and my son got off the bus and they said, 'Momma, did you pick Alayna up today?'" Pritchard said. "I said, 'No, she's on the bus,' and they said, 'No ma'am she didn't ride the bus.'"
Pritchard says she rushed to the school on Highway 72, frantically searching for her daughter.
"She was at the school waiting with her teacher," Pritchard said. "I got there and I said, 'Alayna, where you been, you scared us.'"
It was then Pritchard found someone had called Alayna's kindergarten teacher five times Thursday. The caller said she was Alayna's mother and she would be picking her up after school.
Pritchard says the woman actually spoke over the teacher's cellphone to alayna while she was on the playground.
Alayna described the conversation with the woman on the phone: "And then I said, 'Hello, Mom,' and she said, 'Don't leave, don't get on the bus. I'm gonna come pick you up.'"
Pritchard is outraged and says the school's staff didn't follow protocol. She says they came dangerously close to letting her daughter leave with a total stranger.
She reported the incident to the school's principal and the resource officer, who is a Marshall County Sheriff's deputy.
Friday she went to the Marshall County School District office, hoping to talk with the superintendent. She and Alayna waited but were told the superintendent was in a meeting.
"I was actually hoping the superintendent would do something about it or look into it," Pritchard said.
In the meantime, Alayna is staying home, her mother knowing things could have turned out worse.
"If I had not made it there at 3:30 on time, I may have never seen my baby again. Because she would have been gone with somebody else."
Friday, Alayna would not leave her mother's side.
"I want to stay at home with my mom," she said.
The Marshall County Sheriff's Office the matter is being investigated internally by the school system to determine who made the phone calls and what policy was broken.
The superintendent reached out to WREG on Saturday morning and said that the matter is under investigation. The superintendent also stated that "at no time was the youngster in danger" of being released to anyone other than her mother.