MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities mother wants answers after her son who has autism wandered away from school and ended up in a hospital.
WCCO investigates the 100-mile escape from school that could end up in court.
Naima Raan might spend more time worrying about her son than most.
“It was just so scary,” Raan said. “He’s everything to me. He’s my life.”
Diagnosed with autism and arthritis, 17-year-old Amir uses a walker to get around. His mom says he also struggles speaking and with social interactions.
Last spring, he enrolled at Champlin Park High School for his junior year. But, one morning about a month later, he left.
“In April, it was early in the morning and it was raining very hard. The school calls, I answer, and the school say we can’t find Amir,” Raan said.
Less than an hour later, law enforcement located him in a nearby neighborhood and brought him back to school. His teachers met with his mom to come up with a safety plan to keep a closer eye on him moving forward. It calls for a special education teacher to walk Amir to each of his classes and “communicate via e-mail about Amir being in class” as the document says.
“I never thought it would ever happen again,” Raan said.
But, three weeks later it did.
“Again, I hear a phone call on May 22nd saying your child’s not there. I said what do you mean he’s not there and they say call the police,” Raan said.
According to police records, Amir was reported as a runaway just before 10 that morning.
“I went downtown couldn’t find him, went to Mall of America, airport, anywhere, I was just all over,” Raan said.
“Here I am going all over the city,” she added.
“It was just so scary nothing I would wish to happen to any parent on the earth,” Raan said.
Eight hours later, police called with disturbing developments.
“They say Amir is in Rochester? I say, Rochester?”
Amir had suffered a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter and somehow ended up nearly two hours away at Mayo Clinic where he had to stay for two days.
“His eyes were swollen his lips were swollen,” she said.
Education Attorney Margaret O’Sullivan Kane is representing Amir’s family, seeking answers and financial compensation for his hospital stay.
“Nobody had any idea what he was doing. We can’t even tell you today how he got there,” Kane said.
“If they would have lost a child at a similar developmental level as this young man it would have been all hands on deck,” Kane said.
Kane believes in this situation a child shouldn’t be characterized as a runaway but rather as a vulnerable young adult with a physical impairment. She asked the school to review procedures and produce a new safety plan before Amir returns.
A spokesperson for Anoka-Hennepin Schools says privacy laws prevent them from answering questions about a specific student. But they did say if a student runs away, the school takes immediate action, and if the student lives in a different city, like Amir, parents are told to report it to local police.
Brooklyn Center Police told WCCO a runaway report is entered into a system that law enforcement can access statewide. Although, it remains to be seen how the dots were ultimately connected in Amir’s case.
“If a child that’s ambling along on severely damaged hips, with a walker, who is vulnerable, can toddle off, yeah, there’s a problem,” Kane said.