Parents furious, school considering changes after 6-year-old with autism slips away from school

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Parents are furious, and the Columbus school district wants to make changes after a 6-year-old girl with autism was allowed to walk out of school on her own.

It happened Monday afternoon at West Mound Elementary in west Columbus.

Joe Nance was heading out to pick up his children from school when he got a startling surprise.

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"I was walking out to my van, and I looked to my left, and there was my daughter. At first, I didn't think it was her and then I looked again and instantly brought tears to my eyes, because how did my daughter get home when she's supposed to be in school?"

Six-year-old Cecilia, a first grader with autism, had somehow slipped out of West Mound Elementary and walked home.

Nance says he drove straight to the school, where he says her teacher and principal were unaware of what had happened.

"I talked to the principal and the principal said to me...I asked her, how could this happen? She's like well, your daughter went to the bathroom and never came back. They thought she went to an appointment with one of her therapists in school."

Cecilia's parents say she wasn't able to tell them the route she took, but they say one thing is certain: she would have had to cross four lanes of traffic on Mound Street to get to her home in the 400 block of Townsend Avenue, about seven-tenths of a mile.

"At six years of age to cross a busy street, walk alone, not knowing what could happen to her, and the dangers that are out there in the real world, it's scary," said her father.

"I was livid," said Jamie Nance, her mother.

She says her teachers lost track of her twice last year, but this is the first time she's made it out of the school building.

"They keep losing her. She's obviously a smart little girl. She got herself home, but that's not the point. My daughter is crossing Mound Street and nobody cares."

Columbus City Schools tells 10TV security camera footage shows Cecilia left the classroom at 2:56 p.m.

Footage shows her leaving from the front door at 3:03 p.m. Her father says she showed up at home at 3:21 p.m.

"My daughter goes to school to learn and get educated, not for her to walk out of school and no one knows where she is and us not get a phone call," said her father.

"Do I send her back to Columbus city schools? It's just scary, very scary," said Jamie.

Columbus City Schools declined to speak with 10TV on camera, but a spokesperson said school and district leaders have scheduled a meeting with Cecilia's parents.

The district says it ready to put in some extra precautions to keep her safe and in school.

That could include an escort to accompany her anytime she's outside of the classroom.