Two attempts to lure young girls away from a school in south Edmonton over the past week are being investigated by police.
The first incident happened on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 4 at Steinhauer School near 107 Street and 32a Avenue, according to police and a letter from principal Lori Price-Wagner sent to parents the following day.
A girl was using the boot rack inside the school around 8:30 a.m. when an unknown man entered the school through a door on the west side of the building and encouraged the student to leave with him, officials said.
“The student moved to another area of the school quickly, and the man left the building,” the principal’s letter said. Police said the student reported the incident to her parents, who contacted police.
Price-Wagner said Edmonton Public Schools division security was also contacted, and police were parked outside the school the following Friday morning.
The second incident happened on Thursday, Feb. 11 — again just before the start of the school day around 8:30 a.m. — when an unknown man again attempted to lure a girl away.
“The student came inside and reported the incident right away,” said a second letter to parents from Price-Wagner. Again, police and division security were called.
Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said the man left the area on foot. The EPS Canine Unit was called in but were unable to track the man.
“Both students did the right thing, and reported the incident to a trusted adult,” EPSB spokesperson Megan Normandeau said.
“We certainly understand that these incidents are upsetting and can be very concerning for our students and their families,” Normandeau said, adding the school community and principal have been working to reassure families their children’s safety is a top priority by instigating new procedures and practices.
“Both incidents happened in the morning dropoff, so that is something that our school is really considering and looking to kind of tighten up security measures during that time,” Normandeau said.
The school has increased supervision for both morning and afternoon. Price-Wagner’s letter said effective immediately, staff supervision will be outside the school in the morning, not just in the doorways, on “green dot” days when students are allowed to enter the building immediately.
Parents Dibyenbu Dhar and Yogesh Singh both said they were pleased with the measures the school has taken to increase security.
Dhar said he would like to see the school do drills with students, running through abduction attempt scenarios so kids can learn ways to get out of scary situations. Still, he’s happy with the response thus far.
“They are doing their best,” Dhar said during Friday afternoon pickup. “I am very happy that the principal and the school staff took it very seriously.”
“I find the teachers and everyone to be really good and they are concerned with the safety of the students,” Singh said.
“That’s really heartening.”
Division security will be on-site next week during morning dropoff and teachers outdoors at the end of the day, “so students are well-supervised while they’re outside either arriving at school or leaving from school,” Normandeau said.
Singh said with the increased surveillance, he isn’t worried about safety.
“Today I was late by 10 minutes — I was on a Zoom call and forgot about the time — by the time I realized, I rushed over here.,” he said, adding when he arrived his child was safe with a staff member.
In addition to letters to parents, 70 families attended a virtual meeting Thursday night to ask questions and speak with school officials.
Dhar said he picked up on the similarities between the two incidents and asked about it.
“I asked the principal, ‘Is it a targeted incident or a random incident?’ So what she told me, ‘it seems to me that it’s a kind of random incident.'”
One of Price-Wagner’s letter reminded parents to talk to their kids about stranger danger.
“There is an education piece when it is a K-6 school about teaching students to be well aware of their surroundings, not to speak to or engage with individuals they don’t know and if these situations arise, to tell a trusted adult immediately,” Normandeau said.
Police said it’s not yet known if the two incidents are linked.