Gwinnett school releases wrong girl to child services after name mix-up

A 7-year-old Gwinnett County girl was mistakenly pulled out of class Tuesday afternoon and driven to the state Division of Family and Children Services office in Rockdale County after a name mix-up, the district said.

Sean Harris went to pick up his daughter from Rosebud Elementary School in Loganville, but no one could tell him where she was. It was not until more than an hour later, when a social worker realized the agency had the wrong child, that he learned his daughter was in a different county.

"I was in disbelief that this could possibly happen," he told Channel 2 Action News.

Harris' daughter has the same first and last name as the girl who state officials should have picked up, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

"The wrong student was released to DFCS," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a statement. "The spelling of the students' names were the same except for one letter."

DFCS picked up Harris' daughter just after 2:40 p.m., and she was returned to the school just before 4:15 p.m., according to the district.

"This is a very serious situation and this family's concerns are understandable," Roach said.

When the DFCS worker brought Harris' daughter back to Rosebud Elementary, the correct child was picked up.

"The other child was in class and came to the front office after school as she had been told she was not to ride the bus home," Roach said.

Both the DFCS and Gwinnett County Public Schools will be reviewing their policies.

To remove a child, a DFCS staff member must give the school legal documents to identify the child by name and birthdate.

"We are concerned that, even when this procedure is followed, a school could release the wrong child to staff in our Division," the agency said in a statement.

DFCS and Gwinnett schools officials have not said if the staffers involved were disciplined.

For Harris' daughter, the experience was so traumatic, he had to convince her to return to school.

"She was terrified," he said.