ATLANTA — An Atlanta mother says her child’s after-school program not only left him in its van for more than an hour, she says they blamed the 7-year-old after he fell asleep inside it.
“That was very scary cause it could have went totally wrong,” Jermessia Weems told Channel 2′s Tom Jones.
Weems was scared because her son was in the van on a hot day.
“I believe like could be like 80-90 degrees that day,” she said.
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On top of that, she says staff at the city-owned Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center thought he never got on the van, and weren’t searching for him.
“100% concerned when they say they couldn’t find my son. He never entered the building. So I’m calling everywhere like what’s going on,” she described.
Weems says her cousin was at the Rec Center to pick him up. The cousin says the 7-year-old suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He told her he got off the van when he saw her.
”They just left me on the van. I was sleep on the van,’’ she says her son said. “Nobody ever checked to see if he was okay.”
Weems says what really bothered her is once her son was located, the center blamed him.
She says the driver of the van said he didn’t sit in his normal spot.
“He is seven years old. That is your job to make sure my son gets off a hot van. Sorry, he’s 7 years old and fell asleep,” she responded.
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Jones went inside the center to get staff’s side of the story. He was told the director would meet with him. He waited nearly 45 minutes and no one showed up. He was then told to contact the city for a response.
Weems says the center has to do a head count to make sure no child is left behind. She doesn’t want this to happen to any other child.
”That’s a problem. I was scared out my life and I know my son was too,” she said.
Reg Griffin, a spokesperson from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, which regulates the state afterschool programs, says the center is exempt from requiring two different people to make sure every student is accounted for because it is a city-owned facility.
He also says the center does not currently receive visits or inspections since it opted out of receiving CAPS funding in 2020.
After the story aired on Channel 2 Action News, a spokesman for the City of Atlanta shared a statement that read,
“We are grateful that the child has been reunited with their family. The safety and well-being of all our participants remain our highest priority. The Department of Parks and Recreation is aware of the incident and has initiated an internal investigation to address this matter. As part of our commitment to safety, we will conduct a thorough review of our policies and practices to ensure the continued safety of all our community members.”
Weems says her son was traumatized but is still coming to the center because programs like this one are hard to find.
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