Concerned father says daughter has twice found way off campus of St. Johns County school

Preston Brown urged school board to make changes during meeting

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The father of a 5-year-old girl made an impassioned plea to the St. Johns County School Board during its Tuesday night meeting.

Preston Brown told the board that the life of his daughter, who attends Freedom Crossing Academy, has twice been put in danger.

He said the first time occurred on Oct. 13, when his daughter was placed in the wrong line at dismissal and made her way off school grounds, alone. He said no one knew where she was for 30 minutes.

“A stranger found my daughter at an intersection a block away from the campus. Thank God she was a good stranger and not a predator, and she brought our daughter back to our house,” Brown told the board.

“The administration apologized and said it’ll never happen again,” he continued. “But guess what? It did.”

Brown said that last Friday, his daughter was locked out of a classroom after recess. He said she was scared, ran off, and again a stranger found her and brought her to safety.

Brown said the school has acted to make changes, but he’s worried about other schools in the rapidly-growing district. He urged the board to make changes to all St. Johns County schools.

At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Tim Forson addressed what Brown told the board.

“I spoke with the parent yesterday from Freedom Crossing [Academy]. Mr. Strausbaugh (the school safety specialist) is going to go to the school, and we’re going to walk back through all the procedures that are in place, and then physically the site, too. As you know, it’s not all one size fits all on procedures and policies, so we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Forson said. “As I shared, as you know I have a kindergarten child and I would be devastated and angry myself, and I know we have lost trust and that’s a slow rebuild, and I respect that. I understand that I have the utmost respect for that family and the way they are working with us to ensure that does not happen again, not just to that child but to any child in our system.”


About the Author:

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.