ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County woman said she is upset after her 5-year-old son was sent walking home by himself on the third day of school.
Sara Tavares said her son, Joey Hoffman, wandered for about 45 minutes Wednesday before a school resource officer found him a mile away.
"I'm furious," she said. "I mean, I'm so -- I'm still shaking about it."
Larianne Warner, Joey's grandmother, was at Winter Garden's Sunridge Elementary School waiting for him so she could walk him home, but he was nowhere to be found.
"(I felt) sheer panic and terror. (I was) scared to death. No one knew where he was. No one had a clue," she said. "Anything could have happened. Come on now. (For) an hour he's been walking around Tildenville looking for our house."
Joey said he was surprised to see the officer.
"The cop found me," he said. "I thought I was going to jail."
Orange County Public Schools said there was a breakdown in communication.
Joey was listed as a walker and sent away with other walkers. His family said they had a plan that was clearly communicated to his teacher.
"That would be the third time I would have picked him up in front of the office," Warner said. "That was our designated spot. She knows I want to pick him up myself right there by the office."
A school district spokeswoman said the incident serves as a reminder for all parents to have clear communication with their children and teachers about what should happen before and after school.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that 22 sexual offenders or sexual predators live within a 2-mile radius of the school, about half of whom live near where Joey was found.
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