|Updated: 9/14/2012 6:18 pm
||Published: 9/14/2012 5:58 pm
Two five-year-old girls in kindergarten wandered away from Skelly Elementary School Thursday, and now the girls' teacher has been suspended for failing to notice the children were missing for more than three hours.
The girls' parents were demanding answers from Tulsa Public Schools on Friday.
The two girls, Gabriel and Ireland, were playing on the playground during recess when they decided to walk to McDonalds. They crawled through a hole in the fence at the school yard and began walking toward the restaurant in a creek.
"I received a phone call at 2:11 letting me know that my daughter was not at school," Gabriel's mother, Nicole Kulp, said. "They wanted to check and see if she had gotten checked out, like, for a doctor's appointment or anything like that."
The last time teachers remembered seeing the girls was before 11:30 Thursday morning.
"They do realize that they have dropped the ball, but it doesn't help the matter because it was three hours that my five-year-old could have been hurt," Kulp said.
Around 2:30 Thursday afternoon Tulsa police began searching for the girls. But soon after the pair showed up at Jim Glover Chevrolet.
"I heard two girls playing," David Abernathy, who works at Jim Glover and found the girls, said. "Then they just popped up out of the fence behind me here."
"They were just having them a great old time, playing around."
Oblivious that anyone was looking for them, the girls continued their game when Abernathy found them.
"Everything they said... 'we don't go to school, we don't have a home,'" Abernathy said. "They said they lived at the fair, and they played with the gorillas."
Eventually police officers were able to reunite Gabriel with her mom.
"They did not know that the second student was even gone until after I had found my kid," Kulp said.
That fact was alarming to Abernathy.
"I've got two grandkids and two on the way," he said. "And, you know, eventually they're going to be in school. So, it's a big concern."
"They said they're sorry," Kulp said. "They said that safety's their number one priority. But in this instance I don't see it."
Tulsa Public Schools admitted the situation had been mishandled.
"That's just not acceptable," Chris Payne, Public Information Officer for TPS, said.
"Teachers are supposed to be vigilant. They count kids frequently. It's something that really doesn't happen that often. And really, quite frankly, it should not have happened yesterday."
Thankfully both girls were safe and unharmed.
Even though the district insists its students are kept safe, Kulp isn't convinced.
"She will not be going back to that school," she said.
TPS has placed the girls' teacher on paid administrative leave during the investigation. But Payne confirmed that this was the second time an incident like this involving students going missing has happened on that teacher's watch.
On Friday, the district indicated it was sending notes to parents with kids at Skelly Elementary further explaining what happened. Payne said the district is also evaluating its security measures at the school as part of its investigation, to make sure kids are not able to escape in the future.