Yesterday I accompanied Lily's class on a field trip to the Everglades National Park. We headed by bus way down south to the huge National Park. The kids were super excited and it was looking like a great day out. There were 40 kids with a total of 10 adults.
The big ole school bus lumbered to a stop at the visitor station and 2 Rangers greeted us. We were separated into 2 groups and once the rangers had finished explaining what we should expect the kids were all sent to the restrooms before we headed to the Anhinga Trail. Once there we started our hike and the kids were captivated. A few short minutes later another teacher from a different school came rushing up to the ranger and asked if she could speak to him. Ranger Fred, as I will call him, excused himself and went and talked to her. He came back to the group, explained that he had an emergency and asked if the teachers and chaperones could hold down the fort. That wasn't a problem as many of the chaperones are also teachers at the school. We continued to point out various things and kept them busy for a few minutes. Ranger Fred would conduct business on his walkie talkie, talk with the lady and then come back to our group. The whole time he maintained his professionalism.
This went on for about 20 minutes. We would walk on a few feet. The other lady had 3 boys with her that she kept very close to her and whom she sat in a shelter out of the way but never left their side. It became apparent that this was a very serious situation but not one that we could "see". A lady ranger appeared and joined in the conversation. At this point the woman in charge of the boys came to our group and explained very quietly to one of the teachers that one of her boys had just been sexually assaulted in the bathroom.
In that instant I think my life changed forever.
The boys looked to be about 10.
We had just left those very bathrooms with our kids. This group was ahead of us by about 3 minutes. We had boys with us. We had 10 adults. All of us were female. I went with the kids into the loo. I was holding the door and they went in and out. Lily stayed with me so her and I were the last to leave with another mum and her daughter but the boys had NO ONE. They were alone. There were tonnes of people everywhere. Tonnes. People coming and going. It didn't stop this scumbag.
Please if you are a Father sign up as a volunteer for your kids classroom. Go on field trips. Even if you have daughters go for the boys. Go and get the police clearance. Take the day off of work.
Cellphones do not work in the Everglades. All communication had to be done with walkie talkies. Suddenly the Federal Agents appeared. It was the most bone chilling experience of my life. I saw them running, searching for this creep, fingers on the trigger as they ran the Anhinga trail. We kept our kids in the dark, it wasn't our place to tell them. The agents spoke to Ranger Fred. He would step aside and motion them towards wherever or whatever they needed. No kid had a clue. WE kept our group tight, really tight.
Once we got back to school and I got Lily in my car I asked if she realised there was an emergency and she yes because Ranger Fred thanked them for behaving whilst he dealt with it. I then told her what had happened. She needs to know it can and does happen anywhere. She needs to know that I am not nuts for not letting her go to the toilet alone EVER. This is the second time this week that I have heard a story like this I can't help but think the universe is trying to warn me to make me be more vigilant.
Please please pay attention. Don't let this warning go unnoticed but moreover PLEASE if you are a dad, an uncle, a big borther, sign up to volunteer for your kids. This all could have been avoided.
If you do go on a field trip and there isn't anyone to go into the boys toilet with them as a woman you can stand at the door and say, coming in and go in and check before allowing the boys to enter.
This is so sickening and we have to protect our children.
I don't know if they found him or not. We kept on with our day but I do know that I can't stop thinking of the innocent child whose life he ruined.
Please help to spread the word. Schools are not very good at circulating this type of news but this is something that we as parents can control. I have sent Lily on field trips where I haven't been able to go because chaperones names were pulled out of hats but fortunately I have always known, very well at least one of the other mothers. What do I do now? Not let her go if I don't go? Crap...we live in sich a sick messed up world.