Paraeducator Charged with Child Neglect after 2 Autistic Boys Walk Away from School

Alfredo Lopez | MCPD

A Montgomery County Public Schools paraeducator has been charged with child neglect after he failed to report Monday that two teenage autistic students had left a school, a Montgomery County police statement released Thursday said.

Alfredo Lopez, 59, of the 7800 block of Mineral Springs Drive in Gaithersburg posted $10,000 bond and was released, according to online court records. He is on administrative leave, said Derek Turner, an MCPS spokesman.

According to police, the two students separately walked away from Rock Terrace High School on Sept. 24. They were eventually reported as missing to the police and both students were found safe and unharmed later that day, police said.

About 12:50 p.m. Monday, officers from the Rockville police district and Rockville City Police responded to the Rock Terrace High School at 390 Martins Lane, Rockville, for the report of a missing 16-year-old boy with autism who had walked away from the school, police said.

During the investigation, officers learned that Lopez saw the student leave the school on foot just before 10 a.m. and, at that time, made no attempt to notify school staff members that the student had walked away, police said.

About 12:40 p.m., Lopez notified school administrators that the student had walked away, but only after a relative of the student had called the school to state that they would be picking the student up that day, police said. The student was then reported as missing to police.

That same afternoon, about 1:51 p.m., an MCPS bus driver saw the missing student walking northbound on Ridge Road at Sweepstakes Drive in Damascus, police said. The student was returned to his home.

About 3 p.m., city and county police again responded to the Rock Terrace for the report of a missing non-verbal 16-year-old boy with autism, police said.

During that investigation, officers determined that Lopez was also responsible for supervising the second student. Lopez had lost sight of the student and did not immediately follow established protocol to report the student as missing to administrative staff, police said.

A review of school surveillance video showed the student leave the school through the front door about 2:53 p.m., police said. MCP K-9 officers and officers from the Rockville, Wheaton and Montgomery Village police districts began searching for the missing student, police said.

About 6 p.m., family members told county police that the student was at home, which is in Glenmont, police said. Officers determined that the student had walked about 6 miles in inclement weather from the school to his home.

On Tuesday, officers obtained an arrest warrant for Lopez charging him with two counts of neglect of minor. On Wednesday, Lopez was arrested at his home.

Acting Principal Stephanie Schaufelberger sent this note home to parents:

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