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Board tightens security after near-kidnapping at Earl Kitchener

Outdoor staff at local public schools have to wear safety vests and hold safety sessions with police after a kindergarten student was nearly kidnapped from Earl Kitchener Elementary School this month.
Earl Kitchener Elementary School is considering changing playground safety protocols in the wake of an attempted kidnapping in October, but not all parents are on board. (John Rieti/CBC)

Outdoor staff at local public schools have to wear safety vests and hold safety sessions with police after a kindergarten student was nearly kidnapped from Earl Kitchener Elementary School last week.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board laid down a new set of rules on Wednesday in reaction to the Oct. 23 incident, when a man tried to lead a child away from the playground at noon.

The board’s actions include:

  • All supervising outdoor staff must wear high-visibility safety vests. 
  • Supervising staff must use their schools' two-way radios. 
  • Staff will review the requirements related to strategic placement of staff on the school yard (e.g. near entry points, clear sight lines, etc.) 
  • Schools will assess the physical layout of playgrounds with input from principals and facilities management. 
  • Schools will review access and control of all outdoor yards (e.g. who is allowed on the yard at entry and exit times, detecting unauthorized visitors, etc.)
  • Staff will collaborate with Hamilton Police Service to deliver personal safety sessions for students. 

The board is making sure the procedures are followed at all 93 of its elementary schools, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are deeply sorry for the incident that occurred and are working hard to ensure that student safety is paramount at all of our schools," director John Malloy said. "It has led us to look at all of our practices related to outdoor activity." 

At Earl Kitchener, the board says, staff has reinforced supervision guidelines, reviewed student safety rules, made clear sight lines in the playground, defined an out-of-bounds zone, assigned parent volunteers at gates during recess and given staff and volunteers safety vests to wear.

In the incident last week, the man walked away with the Earl Kitchener student, but a witness stepped in and the man ran off.

The child was shaken but unharmed.

Police say Dakota Hart, 47, of Hamilton faces charges of forcibly seizing a person, assault with a weapon and breach probation. 

Hart was arrested under the Mental Health Act on a separate matter, police say. He was taken into custody and remains in a secure facility. 

He would be arrested once he is released from the facility, according to police. 

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