Parents of a toddler who wandered from the grounds of the Columbia Academy unattended, filed a complaint Jan. 9 against the preschool in Howard County Circuit Court.
Medrika and Timothy Womack filed the complaint on behalf of their son, who is referred to as “M.W.” and is “barely 3 years old,” according to a news release from J. Wyndal Gordon, a Baltimore-based attorney representing the family. The Womacks are seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory damages from the academy, according to the complaint.
On Dec. 30, between 9 and 9:40 a.m., the child “under the care and supervision of the Columbia Academy,” at the Kings Contrivance location in Columbia, wandered from the preschool’s grounds without attracting any attention, the complaint states.
The child, by “simply applying casual pressure,” opened two sets of double doors at the school’s entrance and walked outside. The toddler became “disoriented, [and] lost,” first walking through the office complex and parking lot, before making his way onto Old Columbia Road, the complaint states.
On the road, drivers were honking, hitting their brakes and “literally swerving" around the toddler, as he walked down the middle of Old Columbia Road nearly a quarter-mile from his preschool, the complaint states.
Sidnei Earnest, a manager at ExtraSpace Storage, located on Old Columbia Road, noticed the child and “immediately ran” onto the road to rescue him, the complaint states.
Earnest called it "a crazy situation.”
Earnest said he felt compelled to rescue the child after not seeing any vehicles stop to help.
Tom Kincaid, the owner of the independent Columbia Academy, which has four preschool locations in the county, confirmed Friday that on Dec. 30 a child “under the care of our school … was able to exit the school building and campus.”
“The owners and staff at Columbia Academy are extremely distressed that this was able to happen," Kincaid wrote in a statement. “We are relieved that the child was unharmed and safely returned to the parents.”
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A police investigation is ongoing into the incident, including “ways to prevent it from happening again,” he wrote.
“The safety of the children entrusted to us is our first priority,” Kincaid said.
According to the complaint, the child’s parents were contacted by police, who called the Womacks using phone numbers on a bracelet the child was wearing that warns of his food allergies.
The Womacks were not notified that their son was missing from his preschool “for over an hour,” according to the complaint. Around 11 a.m., Medrika Womack received a call from the Columbia Academy asking if she had “picked up" her child.
Medrika Womack responded, “No, The police have him — he was found walking in the middle of the road and I’m going to get him now,” the complaint says.
Founded in 1991, the Columbia Academy has five locations — one school for both elementary and middle school students and the four preschools. The elementary/middle school and two of the preschools are located in Columbia, with the remaining two preschools in Ellicott City and Fulton.
In the complaint, the Womack family requested a jury trial.