The Dillards moved their honor roll child out of a charter school to Jefferson Elementary in Natomas simply because it was closer to home.
Now, they say that’s a decision that could have cost their daughter her life and may have damaged her forever – all because of what happened at her new school.
“When I got the call from the school it was 11:30 (in the morning). So, when I get to school and I say when was the last time you saw my child and they say 9:30, I’m thinking, ‘this girl may not ever come back,’” Jason Dillard said, recalling the desperate feeling he had back on Dec. 18 after hearing his daughter had disappeared from school.
That feeling is just part of the reason why he and his wife have filed a claim for damages against the Natomas Unified School District, the district that left 7-year-old Samaya out in the cold.
The problems started after she spilled some water in class.
“My daughter started crying and the teacher, out of frustration, dragged my child out of class – still sitting in her chair,” he said.
Samaya, a second grader, wandered away from campus after being left outside unattended through recess and a change of class periods.
She walked down Truxel Road and over the Interstate 5 entrance and exit ramps – all the way to an On the Border restaurant where she asked for water.
By that point she had walked for more than two miles.
After Sacramento police refused to make a welfare check requested by ‘On the Border’ staff, Samaya wandered back along her two a half mile route.
“To think that she had done that was very hurtful for me,” said her mother Damia.
When Samaya was finally found, her mother says she was not the same child she sent to school.
“What she said was that she didn’t want to live. She said she felt like nobody loved her, nobody cared,” said Damia.
The Dillards blame teacher Lupe Rodriguez, whom they say the school warned them about early on.
“We’re working on this teacher with the teachers union, but there’s only so much we can do.,” said Dillard.
“Please document everything because we’re trying to build a case,” said Damia, relaying what she claims school administrators told her.
The Dillards had actually been punishing their daughter for acting out, but now they believe her literally being left in the cold to wander was the last act of a teacher bullying their student.
“We both graduated from college. Her godparents are both professors at Stanford in education. The last thing we would ever expect is to have a problem with a teacher, but parents can no longer blindly trust what these teachers are doing cuz the end result is something we almost couldn’t live with,” said Dillard.
School district leaders did issue a statement about this matter:
“We cannot comment on the claim’s allegations or the parties involved because it is a pending legal matter, and because it involves a minor and a personnel issue. We can only say that we care deeply about all children in Natomas unified and we are firmly committed to the safety of our students.”