Kindergartner missing from school had walked home
Kindergartner Malachi Davey had a big, scary adventure on the day of the Comly Elementary School fair. At first, Malachi was having a blast. He walked with his pal Alex. They talked about getting their faces painted, like the big kids.
Kindergartner Malachi Davey had a big, scary adventure on the day of the Comly Elementary School fair.
At first, Malachi was having a blast. He walked with his pal Alex. They talked about getting their faces painted, like the big kids.
But then, Alex was picked up by his dad. Malachi was suddenly alone in the crowd. His teacher had told him to stay with a buddy. His mom was coming to pick him up. But she was late.
He had no money or tickets to buy things. So Malachi walked away from school.
"I wanted to find Mommy," he said this week, recalling the fuss over the events Friday.
The 6-year-old, lean with a thatch of blond hair shaped into a mohawk, walked unnoticed around a police barricade that had been set up to keep children in and cars out.
He walked down busy Byberry Road in Somerton, past businesses and bus stops. He even crossed the four lanes of Bustleton Avenue. About 32,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road daily.
Meanwhile, his mother, Tarin, had arrived at the 400-student elementary school at 1:30 p.m. with her newborn. The scene took her aback.
"It was just chaos," said Davey, 28, the mother of five children. "I thought they were being supervised," she said of the students, "but there were kids running everywhere."
Malachi's teacher was running one of the booths. A school aide who knew the family told Davey that she had seen Malachi with Alex. She helped Davey look for the boy.
After 20 fruitless minutes, Davey and the aide went to Malachi's teacher, who eventually joined the search party and notified the principal. The DJ made an announcement.
Forty minutes into the search and still no sign of the 6-year-old. "I was starting to get emotional," Davey said.
By then, Malachi had made it more than a half-mile down Byberry, to the townhouse complex where he has lived with his family for only three months. But his mother's van wasn't there.
By his own account, Malachi sat down on a plastic chair outside the house. His feet hurt, he was thirsty, and he was hot - it was 90 degrees.
A neighbor who spotted the boy asked Malachi what he was doing out of school. She told him to stay put while she went inside to get her husband, an off-duty police officer. But Malachi grew frightened and ran back toward school, pausing at one point to rest near a gold lion statue outside a gas station. He needed to think.
He picked up his journey again and made his way to where his mother often parked. By now, he was shaking and crying.
"I was scared," he said.
The search for Malachi had been on for an hour or so. Suddenly, a police officer spotted the boy and took him to the principal, Michelle Byruch.
On Tuesday, four days later, Davey and her husband were still shaken. So was Malachi, who was reluctantly back in school.
"You trust that your children are being looked after in an appropriate way at school, but that's not always the case," Davey said. "I know I'm going to ask a whole lot more questions from now on."
The Daveys knew from a letter sent home that the fair was Friday and that parents were invited.
"The letter said that children would be freely roaming the fair," Davey said. "But we thought, 'OK, they're with their classmates, but there's lots of supervision. They're not going to let a child just walk off.' "
Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the Philadelphia School District, called Malachi's adventure "an oversight."
"The child was paired with a parent volunteer, but unfortunately, the parent volunteer did leave early, and the child was left without a chaperone," Gallard said.
Gallard said that Byruch took "full responsibility" and that the fair would be organized next year "to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Davey was just grateful Malachi was OK. But her mother, Colene Schiavo, was angry.
"She said, 'He could have been killed or abducted,'" Davey recalled.
Davey and her husband, Joel, talked to Byruch on Monday, and she apologized, Davey said. The principal asked them what they thought should be done differently, and they told her the event should be staffed with more parent volunteers, so teachers aren't responsible for running booths.
The Daveys have been happy with Comly academically - their son is more challenged there than he was in the Neshaminy School District earlier in the year, she said.
"We don't want to be harsh or hotheaded - we're Christians," Tarin Davey said. "We don't want anyone to lose their job, and we're not suing. But we do want to raise awareness."
At the Davey home Tuesday afternoon, Malachi was in good spirits as his 5-, 3- and 2-year-old sisters twirled in the living room and as Tarin Davey held the newborn girl, Leighlen.
Malachi said he was looking forward to the new Toy Story 3 movie coming out.
And he learned a good lesson.
Next time, he said, "I'd just stay at school."