Lack of communication worries parents after attempted kidnapping at Salt Lake City school

“Children are afraid of such things, it causes terrible trauma to them.”

(Photo provided by Salt Lake City Police Department) A man was arrested Tuesday after attempting to kidnap a 12-year-old girl who was walking to school, Salt Lake City Police said.

After an attempted kidnapping in their own neighborhood, many parents of Liberty Elementary School students are concerned about the lack of communication, and many only find out about the arrests from friends and family outside of school.

Parent Fiona Robinson Hill highlighted the concern of many parents who rely on communication when busy at work.

“Liberty’s demographic is working parents, working family members, so many of the students are responsible for getting to school themselves,” Hill said.

Another parent, John Wilson, was concerned about the mental health of the victim, children and school staff after hearing about the attempted kidnapping of the 12-year-old girl.

“In a situation like that, you have the victim of the attempted kidnapping yourself, then every other student is a victim of what happened,” he said. “Kids are scared of things like that, it causes terrible trauma to them.”

However, Hill was not made aware of the incident and the arrest Tuesday morning until her friends and family inquired if their children were okay, and Wilson said he was unaware until he tuned in to local news.

“Many of our children were already in bed; How could we talk to them if we don’t see any news or social media posts?” asked Hügel.

Hill was upset that she didn’t have time to talk to her kids about the “stranger threat” Tuesday night.

“We had this little window of time this morning from getting up to walking to school to be like, ‘Hey, someone almost got kidnapped at your school yesterday,’ and kind of deal with all the reactions and process that before they go to school.” said Wilson. “In my opinion, the school district has inflicted more trauma on every single student at school by not telling us about it.”

The Salt Lake City Police Department says it strategically delayed the release of information to catch the suspect, who was arrested just hours after the initial report.

“This is a unique circumstance that required the victim to conduct a forensic interview,” said Det. Ben Nielsen of the Salt Lake City Police Department. “We had information that we knew who the suspect was and at that point we determined there was no threat to the community.

“In order to continue our investigation and make an appropriate arrest, we determined at the time that it was probably inappropriate to release this information.”

The Salt Lake City School District made it clear that it is not the school’s or district’s decision to delay notifying parents.

In emails shared with Fox 13 News, Liberty Elementary School principal Julia Barrientos said: “I would also like to let you know why you did not hear from me about this incident earlier today: this is an ongoing investigation , and we have been instructed by law that law enforcement officials are not to disclose any information until they have collected more information. The Salt Lake City Police Department issued a press release tonight and we are now able to share with you what happened today.”

Both Hill and Wilson were grateful that the suspect was arrested quickly, but still have questions about the length of time between the arrest and the release of information.

“They got their man relatively quickly,” Wilson said, “there was absolutely no justification for not informing the public once someone had been arrested and they identified who it was.”

“I’m very glad that person was arrested and is off the streets, so I think that was a very good job,” Hill added. “But the information would have been helpful and more reassuring.”

This article is published by the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of Utah news organizations dedicated to educating readers across the state.

Justin Scaccy

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