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US: Parents livid over lack of school safety

April 24, 2024

AURORA, Colorado (KCNC) – Parents from an Aurora Elementary School are livid at the response of school staff during and in the hours following an alleged kidnapping attempt of a 5th-grader from school grounds.

That kidnapping attempt is alleged to have happened last Friday at Black Forest Hills Elementary School, police and school officials say.

Notifications to parents about the incident went out Friday and then another with some more information went out Sunday afternoon.

Aurora police say 33-year-old Solomon Galligan walked onto school grounds during recess, approached a group of children and tried to grab one of them.

Galligan now sits in the Aurora Detention Center on a $25,000 bond with an attempted kidnapping charge but parents — including the mother of the boy Galligan is accused of trying to grab — are upset with school staff and the school district’s handling of the entire incident.

“This has changed his life forever, and my life,” Miranda Ayala told CBS News Colorado.

“He was touched by somebody else who walked up onto a field at school at recess with other adults that should’ve been taking care of my son.”

She says her son hasn’t slept in the three days since.

Ayala’s son’s identity is redacted in an arrest report, but she says it was other students, some of whom shouted “stranger danger,” that helped protect her son and each other.

“It was these kids who saved my son’s life,” she said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Galligan got onto school grounds, but in an arrest report, an Aurora police officer writes that he reviewed security footage from the school which shows Galligan approaching the kids before they run away and he lunges at a student.

Aurora Police Officer Davidson Belizaire said that when he investigated the area where the kidnapping attempt was reported, he noticed that the school playground was separated from a public sidewalk by a 3-foot high fence.

Galligan was seen on that security footage walking away after realising the kids were running away and shouting, the arrest report reads.

Several students told teachers’ assistants about the incident, but Ayala said that appeared to have fallen on deaf ears: “My son is saying the TAs were on their phones.”

Ayala’s son was interviewed by police and he told officers Galligan’s description, saying he had white powder or other substance on his face and smelled like alcohol.

Another parent later called the police saying they saw a man matching Galligan’s description at a Walgreens about a mile-and-a-half away.

Other officers interviewed Galligan at the Walgreens and he was taken to the hospital after telling officers he was assaulted.

Officers arrested Galligan at the hospital and when he was processed through the jail, Aurora officers learned Galligan was convicted of nonconsensual sexual contact in Denver and was on probation for failing to register as a sex offender.

Records from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation indicate that in that case, he was charged with a felony and misdemeanour sex nonconsensual sexual contact charge and was convicted of the misdemeanour but not the felony.

Now parents are upset that school officials failed to secure the campus.

“The third graders went out right after this happened,” another parent, Danté White, said.

“The assailant was able to walk away.”

It’s not clear exactly when the incident happened but parents say 5th grade recess occurs around 1 p.m. Police weren’t called until around 2:15 p.m.

Ayala says the only reason parents were aware of the incident is because their children told school staff and their parents.

“It’s not because the truth was given by the leaders of Cherry Creek (Schools),” she said.

Black Forest Hills Elementary Principal Amanda Replogle met with some families Monday morning and apologised, but many parents say that that isn’t enough, calling for more transparency and safety measures.

“It’s three days too late, and you still don’t have a plan,” said parent Casey Hotchkiss.

“We have kids’ lives at stake. This is professional incompetence.”

In response to a request for comment from CBS News Colorado, Lauren Snell, a spokeswoman for Cherry Creek Schools, said in an email: “We take all safety concerns very seriously and have launched an investigation into the incident that happened Friday. We are committed to being transparent and accountable to our community, and the school is in communication with families.”

“We want to get in front of the superintendent,” Ayala said. “I think he needs to take accountability for how Cherry Creek school systems are being run.”

Photo: AURORA POLICE/KCNC via CNN Newsource


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