McKinney parents angry students released after warnings issued

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 11:17 PM

McKINNEY - Storm sirens were blaring, a tornado warning was in effect and elementary school students were sent home from school Tuesday afternoon in McKinney.

Angry parents said many students were released from school, and were on their way home when the sirens went off. They told us the children were frantic and scared.

"I was crying," said local resident Leslie Lewis. "I was very upset because those children were terrified."

Lewis described what she saw Tuesday afternoon near Slaughter Elementary School. She was on her way to the store and pulled over to help.

"And I knew I couldn't console every one of them," Lewis said. "So I was upset."

Even students like fifth grader Danna Zavala tried to help.

"He looked like a first grader or a second grader, and he was kind of screaming and crying," Zavala said of a boy she tried to comfort.

It was around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 17 minutes after the weather service issued a tornado warning, 15 minutes before sirens started sounding, and 13 minutes after school administrators said elementary and middle school students should be held until the weather passed.

So what happened?

"It's absolutely a mistake,” said Cody Cunningham, a spokesman for the McKinney ISD.

District officials are calling it a "breakdown in communication."

"There was ample time for students to get home," Cunningham said. "Now, that said, we still don't think it was the right decision to release those students."

Lupe Molina, whose niece made it home just in time, agrees.

"Her mom went by to go pick her up, and they told her she wasn't there no more," Molina said. "They let her go. And we panicked. We're like, 'What's going on?'"

The school district vowed it won't happen again.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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