SAN ANTONIO – The aunt and grandmother of three missing children are saying they have nothing to hide after an AMBER Alert was issued for the kids.
Authorities issued the alert after the grandmother picked them up from school – something she is not allowed to do.
As News 4 WOAI reported Thursday night, the children were found safe at the aunt’s home but only after several tense hours of searching.
On Friday, News 4 WOAI spoke with all the players – the aunt, grandmother, Child Protective Services, the CPS caregiver, Somerset ISD and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office – and learned some procedures that should have kept this from happening fell through the cracks.
By all accounts, the problem started around lunchtime Thursday when one of the three children had a fever at school.
The district turned to a list of emergency contacts and called the sick child’s grandmother, Elida Leal, to pick up the child.
Leal showed News 4 the note from the school nurse allowing her to pick up her sick grandchild. She also took the other two grandchildren out of school.
"Grandmother was not supposed to be on the contact card,” Somerset ISD spokesman Maury Vasquez said. “But the reality of the situation was, she was. So the district followed our procedure."
A short time later, the childrens’ CPS caregiver, who happens to be a Somerset district employee, discovered the school sent the kids home with someone who wasn’t authorized to take the.
Vasquez said both the school principal and counselor called Leal and didn’t get an answer.
He said later, a school police officer called and Leal did answer – but when that officer asked where they were, she hung up.
The district says because Leal and other family members had been seen, as they put it, “lurking” near school grounds earlier this week, school police asked for an AMBER Alert – which means they believed the kids were in grave danger.
But Leal says her grandchildren were never in any danger. They were at their aunt Serena Aceves’ house, playing with their cousins.
"Why would I want to kidnap my grandkids? To me, when they were saying that – that's not right,” Leal says.
Several hours later, the kids were found safe with Leal and Aceves.
But this all raises the question – why was Leal even on the emergency contact card when she wasn’t supposed to be?
CPS showed News 4 school records the CPS caregiver filed last November. It has new emergency contact information that does not have Leal’s number.
"Somebody needs to look into why that information is still on file,” CPS spokesperson Mary Walker said.
No one has been charged or arrested in this case.
Parents who are concerned about something like this happening to their kids should make sure their schools have the right people listed on the emergency contact card.