Missing 5-year-old found safe in wrong classroom

Sumiir Smith
Sumiir Smith

EAST PRICE HILL (FOX19) - New procedures will be in place at Rees E. Price Academy Wednesday morning after a series of mix-ups today caused teachers and Cincinnati police to fear a 5-year-old kindergartner was missing.

FOX19 has learned that Sumiir Smith had spent much of this morning inside a first grade classroom because an older student had taken him to the wrong room. But the teacher didn't notice. A police sergeant summoned all available officers from across the city to East Price Hill so they could fan out through the school and across the neighborhood.

It wasn't until Sumiir's mom brought a picture of him to school (since he's a kindergartner, there was no school photo of him yet) that allowed officials to search recordings from the school's surveillance cameras to see where he'd been. Because he'd arrived late this morning, he ate breakfast with sixth graders. One of the "leaders" in that class was asked to take Sumiir to his classroom.

"However, when they got to the pod, instead of going to the kindergarten room they went to the room right next door, which was the first grade classroom," said principal Shelley Stein. The video cameras showed that this had happened.

No one realized the mistake until Sumiir's mom called the kindergarten teacher this morning to make sure he'd made it to class all right since they'd been running late. What concerns Stein, and likely other parents, is that it took an hour to find Sumiir even though he was in the classroom next door. She tells FOX19 she also expects her teachers to learn students' names and faces "right away."

"And that can be done through class building, Kagan activities, student engagement," said Stein. "But certainly from a safety standpoint, having your class lists, making sure that you're doing your roll call, making sure that you know who your kids are --- (That) you know who the kids are in the other first grades."

Classes have been in session for Cincinnati Public Schools since last Wednesday. Stein said she was holding an emergency meeting with teachers not long after speaking with FOX19 this afternoon to go over what happened.

As for Sumiir, he was calm when he emerged from the school with his mom. Carrying a water bottle in one hand, he looked around, seemingly unaware of adults' frantic efforts to find him. His mom took him home for the rest of the day.

"What (was) going through my head is, my grandson is in somebody's basement kidnapped, hurt, tied-up, on his way to Kentucky," said Sumiir's grandmother, Ava Smith.

Principal Stein says she'll post adult aides in the cafeteria starting tomorrow morning. They'll have lists of every student in the school and will personally escort little kids to the correct classroom.

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