Brooklyn child with autism leaves school unnoticed, found on rooftop several blocks away

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BROOKLYN — Friday afternoon was a nightmare for Asmaa Awawda.

Around 3 p.m. , when her 6-year-old son was supposed to be on his way home from school, she learned instead from her child’s bus driver he was missing.

Ibrahim Safi has autism, is nonverbal and extremely hyperactive. So much so, he is to never be alone in school provide with one on one, full-time paraprofessional care during school hours at P.S. 77 in Brooklyn.

“What time he left, when he left, how he left. There’s no answers and until now, there’s no answers,” explained Awawda.

At some point during the school day, Ibrahim’s school aide was no longer with him. Awawda says she was told the aide was allowed to leave half way through the school day to attend classes outside of P.S. 77.

This left Ibrahim, to Awawda’s understanding, unsupervised and contributed to him leaving P.S. 77 without anyone knowing, set off not a single school alarm and allegedly no safety agents were present at the side doors.

Awawda believes her son was missing for at least two to three hours or more, but was eventually tracked down to an apartment building several blocks from his school.

Off-duty NYPD Officer Christian Lopez, found Ibrahim because he just happens to live in the building with his mother.

Lopez described to PIX11’s Narmeen Choudhury hearing noises in the hallway and when he looked through the peephole, Lopez says he saw a little boy trying several door knobs to different apartments and playing with a broomstick.

Thinking Ibrahim was just a child from the building, Lopez said he ignored him but then decided to check on Ibrahim again. When he did, Lopez says he saw the child staring up towards the doorway to the roof of the building and that’s when Lopez decided to act.

By the time Lopez reached the doorway, Ibrahim was already on the roof.

“I saw Ibrahim standing right by that ledge right there,” recalled Lopez.

Ibrahim, a child who is to always be accompanied by an adult was crossing borough park streets on his own and ended up in a dangerous situation by himself on a rooftop.

His mother, telling PIX11 she was reminded of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, a child with autism who lost his life after his school failed to protect him.

“The only thing in my head is I’m going to find his body. I didn’t think at all I would find him safe,” said a tearful, Awawda.

Avonte’s death spearheaded legislation bearing his name and was eventually signed into law in New York City by Mayor Bill de Blasio on August 2014.

It requires the city’s Department of Education to evaluate a need for door alarms on exterior doors to all schools serving children with special needs. It is PIX11’s understanding, P.S. 77 falls within these guidelines.

When PIX11 asked the DOE if the school had alarms, we were told yes. When PIX11 asked why the alarms were not working, DOE officials said the alarms were in fact functioning properly. This is contrary to what Ibrahim’s family believes and what sources at the school have told PIX11.

Additionally, safety agents are to be located at every doorway of the school and yet in this case the DOE said a staff member was stationed at the front desk. There was no mention of any safety agent at the side doors of P.S. 77, which is how Ibrahim’s family believes he left school grounds.

Awawda believes school officials are indefensible here and lays sole blame on her son’s escape from P.S. 77 on them.

“I’m so mad at them in a way I can’t explain it. He’s a child. They know what his needs. This is his second year there. I thought they would take care of him there,” said Awawda.

Ibrahim has not returned to school since Friday and Awawda says she will not send him back to school until she’s confident this won’t happen again.

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