SAN MATEO -- Some parents slammed school district officials Wednesday for a delay in alerting them to the kidnapping of a girl from an elementary school bathroom.
Though a 9-year-old Parkside student was snatched around 2:45 p.m. Friday, many parents said they knew nothing of the incident until hours later. Among the approximately 150 parents who packed the meeting at Parkside, some said they were never notified at all and only learned of the incident from other parents or the news.
The mother of the girl, who managed to escape the suspect now charged with the abduction, also urged the school to improve safety. She said all entrances to the campus -- either doors or fence gates -- must be locked. Officials have said the suspect just walked onto the campus after bizarre interactions at two other nearby schools.
"I believe abductors are still capable of snatching our children away," said the victim's mother. "The situation could have been a lot worse."
The suspect, identified by police as 25-year-old Bradley Mrozek of San Francisco, grabbed the girl as she washed her hands in the bathroom, groped her and then carried her off the campus, prosecutors say. She kicked him, threw rocks and then got away. He's being held without bail on felony kidnapping and molestation charges.
"She hugged me so hard," said the mother of daughter's reaction. "She was trembling, she was shaking."
District officials said they worked closely with the police and released information as soon as they could confirm it and translate it into Spanish. Messages started going out to the school's 433 families around 5:30 p.m., Parkside Principal Lori Fukumoto said.
San Mateo-Foster City School District Assistant Superintendent Molly Barton said the first message went out at 5:07 p.m.
Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Simms said officials are looking into whether the system worked properly and urged parents to verify the contact information the school has for them. Some parents may not have updated phone numbers or have not opted to receive cell phone calls or text alerts.
Simms said the district has already taken a number of steps toward improved safety since the harrowing incident. Two gaps in the campus fence have been or will be outfitted with locking gates. She added all gates will be closed and locked during class time. Also, parents will have to wait off school grounds to collect their children at day's end.
A few additional details about the kidnapping came out of the meeting. Police said the suspect didn't sign in at the Parkside office and appears to have simply walked onto the campus. Also, the victim's class had a substitute teacher the day of the abduction and that may have played a role in the incident, said district Assistant Superintendant for Student Services Molly Barton. The girl was noticed missing about 15 minutes after she went to the bathroom, Barton said.
Other parents at the meeting were upset by two earlier incidents at nearby Horrall Elementary and Bayside STEM Academy involving the suspect, where officials didn't alert Parkside officials to potential trouble. Officials said the incidents at all three campuses happened within about 45 minutes and they reacted as soon as they knew of the connection.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.