In today’s schools, teachers are often required to go above and beyond their duties to students in the classroom. Last Wednesday, three staff members at the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester, in guiding a lost child to safety through the streets of the neighborhood, took their responsibilities to a new level.
On that day, Liz Everson, a special education teacher at the school, had just begun her shift in the after school program when a woman from the Dunkin Donuts across the street on Morrissey Boulevard brought over a child approximately 14 years in age who she had just served, thinking he was a student at the school. The young teen was not in fact a Murphy student, but Everson, with 15 years of work in special education under her belt, quickly realized he was autistic and non-verbal.
“Apparently he wanted a chocolate donut with sprinkles,” she explained. “The woman working at Dunkin’s made a smart decision bringing him next door to the school.”
Everson sat the student down and gently engaged him in an effort to figure out where he had come from and where he was supposed to be. “He couldn’t tell us much,” she said, “but he knew his mother’s phone number. Luckily we were able to get ahold of somebody.”
But as a small crowd of people gathered around, Everson says she noticed the child begin to tense up. “He got scared and then he just bolted,” she said. “It was scary. He ran out into traffic. Things could have really gone south.”
That’s when Michael Crowley, the school’s community field coordinator, got involved. Noticing the child sprinting from the parking lot, he quickly assessed the situation and began to pursue the student on foot. While keeping pace with the student, he called 911 and continuously relayed their location and what they were wearing to the police. Crowley said he reacted out of fear for the child’s life.
“My plan was just to run alongside him and get him to stay out of the road,” he explained. “He was running in and out of traffic with no real regard for his safety.”
Crowley added that he opted against attempting to physically restrain the student out of uncertainty about how he would react, instead focusing on keeping him safe and alerting passing cars.
As Crowley kept up his pursuit, another Murphy faculty member, Kim Hogan, jumped into her car and rode along with the pair, helping to stop traffic at intersections to allow them to proceed safely.
The chase continued for nearly two miles into the Fields Corner neighborhood until it ended near Peggy O’Neil’s pub on Dorchester Avenue as several police cruisers arrived, including one in which the boy’s grandmother was waiting. Officers reunited the boy with her and drove them home.
Crowley, who described Murphy as “a school inside a community,” says the thought that the boy was not a Murphy student never crossed his mind. “He’s a kid, and that’s why we’re in this business – to help children. It didn’t matter that he doesn’t go to our school.” He admitted, though, to being sore the next morning. “The following day I came into work looking like an old man,” he said with a laughed. “I haven’t run since high school, and I did it in dress shoes. If we’re doing it again I’m wearing shorts!”