NOW LIVE: Eyewitness News

Boy Found After Being Locked In School Stairwell For 9 Hours

By Dray Clark

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – David Fields, 13, goes straight home from school every day and he gets home on time, every time. So when David was a no-call, no-show Thursday after school, his mother got worried.

She went to Roosevelt Middle School to look around, no David. After filing a missing person’s report, she and family members went back to the school for a second search.

“They asked two janitorial ladies if they have seen David in the school at all.”

By then it was dark, several hours had gone by and still no David. Then late Thursday night, family members went back for another search with school police.

That’s when they heard a familiar voice.

“His dad and uncle found him in a stairwell yelling for help,” his mother said.

David was stuck between two locked doors in a school stairwell.

“I walked down the steps and the door was locked and I came back up the steps and I was locked in,” David said. “I was scared.”

School was dismissed at 3:09 p.m., David came out of that stairwell at 12:30 a.m. It was nine hours of worry for David’s mother, nine hours of lockdown for David.

“Scared, hungry, lonely, by himself, unable to go to the bathroom,” his mom says the janitors never looked for her son and the school never called to ask if he was ok.

“For the school not to reach out us is inappropriate and unprofessional.”

She wonders why her husband, who was outside the school, could hear the boys cries for help, but the janitors inside the building could not.


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  • Sunshinetogo

    I am so sorry to hear this story. Why won’t the authorities allow the parents to look in the school? Do you think any area would have been overlooked by them? This is a message loud and clear — DO NOT DEPEND ON ANYONE ELSE WHERE YOU CHILD’S WELFARE IS CONCERNED. Many people in positions of authority/responsibility do the minimum they can with an attitude of: it’s not my job or it’s too much work or don’t bother me. If someone told me they checked an area, I would re-check (people lie) to be sure. Also, if this boy was being bullied, he would not respond to a strange voice for his own protection. Parents should be allowed to search for just this reason alone.

  • toma

    Good grief!!! None of this even makes sense!!!!! He walked into the stairwell at the end of the school day like he was supposed to and did everyday and then NO ONE ELSE walked down the same stairwell. Seriously!!! I work at a school and contrary to popular belief, teachers do not run out of the school when the students leave. This child (for whatever reason) was hiding in the school!!! If he had wanted to be found earlier, he would have!!!!

    • CurouisG

      Another thing that doesn’t make sense is why did the family kept checking the school over and over and over again? I’m glad they did but it almost seems like it was all planned. Was there no possibility that he could have disappeared on his way home? I am sure that a 13 yr old boy can make a lot of noise, kicking the door or slamming books against it. Something smells fishy!

      • the parent

        its nothing fishy about this. I kept going back up there because like I said my gut, heart and faith would not let me think anything else. ALSO, he was stuck between two floors behind glass which then leads to a balcony. and when the workers are working they are playing music whih was so loud it was heard outside of the school. but I guess you knew that cause you were there with me and the police.

  • Guest

    I thought those doors were supposed to lock to keep people from getting in,not getting out.
    My question though,what was preventing him from going to the bathroom?Just because you’re locked in a room doesnt mean you still cant go,unless he did and just didnt tell anyone,in which case its time for those janitors to clean the stairwell.

  • Let Me Help You « belittlethebullies

    […] yesterday, CBS News in Philadelphia reported the tragic story of a thirteen-year-old boy who had spent nine hours locked in a stairwell […]

  • Curious

    Curious – If the family searched the school multiple times. Why did they not hear him? Why did he not answer when they were looking for him? If I was locked in a stairwell I would be making all kinds of noise as long as it took to be found.

  • Jay R

    Why would a stairwell be locked at all? if there was a fire or any emergency how are the students supposed to evacuate? The Principal and school district should be held accountable for this. An incident like this could fix and prevent a future catastrophic event. Lets all be thankful the boy was not found safe.

    • Jay R

      err found safe

      Merry Christmas

  • JE

    What about blaming the people that put him in there in the first place? Obviously, some jerks/bullies took him and locked him somewhere that was secluded and scary. Where were his friends/witnesses? Why did no one say that a boy was locked up against his will?
    I am sure that the school staff was looking for him in every normal place that a kid would hide. Maybe they should have checked the school video cameras…
    Unless you work in a school, you don’t know what these “precious angels” are capable of doing.

    • Curious

      Curious – If the family searched the school multiple times. Why did they not hear him? Why did he not answer when they were looking for him? If I was locked in a stairwell I would be making all kinds of noise as long as it took to be found.

    • Nira

      uhh.. he said walked DOWN the stairwell to find the first door locked, and then when he went back up the other door ended up locking him in the stairwell… obviously if he was bullied into being locked in that stairwell it would have said that….. idiot.

  • Dee

    This is one reason why kids should be allowed to have cell phones in school. They’re not supposed to have it on ring and make and receive phone calls during class, but there’s no reason why they can’t have them on their person.

    My daughter is in her first year of college and my son is a junior in high school. They both got phones when they were in middle school. If they were going to be late or if I was going to be late (in picking them up), it’s very convenient to send/receive texts from them.

    Too many people over-react about having cell phones in school. If this boy had one (and I bet he did but the administrators are a bunch of jerks), this would’ve been a 10-minute ordeal.

    • Justme

      Well said.

  • Susan

    Try lazing janitors, not out and about doing their jobs. School employees and officials should be ashamed of themselves.

  • N. Spector

    I dunno.

    You wouldn’t expect guys pulling down as little as $181,643 a year to be that thorough.

    Source: New York Post

  • Mark Douglas

    The principle should be fired, along with the janitors. A lost child in the school 9 hours and no one can find him? Apparently they didn’t even look. And if that’s the case, they should all be fired, all janitors, and the principal It would take 10 minutes to walk the stairwells and check the rooms.

    These officials get huge paycheck, big pensions, great benefits, but when something happens, oh it’s someone else’s fault.

    Here is a clue, those in a position of authority should be RESPONSIBLE. It’s their job to supervise and be accountable.If they get the goodies, they should take the lumps.

    • Jake

      Should he be fired on principle or principal?

      • Barb

        So true. Don’t listen to these idiots on here that apparently slept through 3rd grade English class and are proud of their ignorance.

      • Cecil

        Ha ha! Good one! The pithiest quips always come from anal retentive beta males.

    • floridachristine

      I agree. That entire school should of been searched by staff and law enforcement.

  • Kelly

    Poor kid!! Glad it turned out okay, his parents must have been terrified.

  • rmsbl4

    Needless to say that stairway was one place that was not cleaned or they would have found him.

  • suetheschool

    The school is in violation of national fire code for their doors not allowing free egress.

    • Thom JOnes

      Yes! Getting locked between two doors. How can that happen? I cringe to think there are buildings that are designed that way! How ridiculous. What is this building? A prison? I’ve never heard of doors to transit halls that can lock you between two entrances.

  • Darryn James

    lol, yup they are gonna go for the money!

    • Allen

      It’s not the janitors’ job. It’s not in their collective bargaining contract. The only thing these union slugs care about is doing the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM at their job for the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM pay and they don’t care that it’s us, the taxpayers, who end up paying the price for their laziness and greed. All states need Right to Work laws now. Freedom at work is a civil right!

      • Stephan

        Dude! If you replace the word Janitor with Wall Street your statement makes way more sense! Keep on thinking it’s the janitors and unions that are the problem, you perfect little tool for the 1%.

  • Notherngal

    The janitors did not want to go out of their way to check on this child or any other. It’s a sad, apathitic state of mind that seems to prevail. Thank goodness, he had loving, responsible parents.

  • jonanthony

    I’m glad this had a happy ending. Having said that, the janitors didnt respond because they are janitors at a Middle school in Philadelphia for a reason. Let’s leave it at that.

  • Rally2xs

    Where is the fire marshall for this place? It is a fire hazard to be locking exits so that people can’t get out. What are people thinking, anyway? And locking INTERNAL doors? Lessee who goes to jail someday when the whole thing burns down with about 50 kids in it who couldn’t get out because someone has a penchant for locking doors.

  • Mother of Teen Locked Inside a Philadelphia School For 9 Hours Files Complaint « CBS Philly

    […] spent nine harrowing  hours, alone and frightened, in a stairwell at Roosevelt Middle School (see previous story). Angela Johnson says her son, David, was not engaged in any improper activity — just trying […]

  • Dan

    I wonder if there will be any follow-up to this? If he had left school at dismissal, then he would have been with his class and not locked in the stairwell. Also, the main stairways should not lock because maintenance and others need to get around inside the school. Was he trapped in a stairway or in the stairwells that are for emergencies? In most schools, those emergency stairwells are not used and are kept locked. Many questions to this story. Why was he not with his class? Why was he possibly in a place where he should not have been? Where were faculty and administration? Somebody had to be there if mom went soon after dismissal. Did the staff drop the ball in this emergency situation? What if the boy was not ok? Then what? Sounds like a lot of blame, finger pointing, and lack of responsibility.

    • SH

      Even a fire stairwell lets you get out at some point or they would be pretty useless in a fire. Think before you type. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to get stuck in a public school stairwell, they should if properly setup always have a door that can open to the outside.

      • Dan

        SH, do you teach in the district? I do and know what goes on. Some schools have those stairwells locked so students do not have access to them. Why? Because they allow the studets to be out of sight. Where do you think most of the inappropriate behavior takes place in these schools. The old stairwells! So before you tell somebody “think before you type”, you should think before telling them if you have no hands on experience.

        However, I do agree that there should be access to get out of the building from anywhere.

    • Doodle Bug

      Dan – if the doors are kept locked, then they are .. you know… LOCKED. Meaning it would take a key to exit. No matter what else happened leading up this is moot. Places that are not meant for students to go, also needs to have lock. You are confusing the schools legal responsibility here – not the students. The student was moving through the building – via any path open to them. He indicated he was trying to avoid bullies. It’s simple if the door had been only accessible via keys, this would not of happened.

  • noname

    what’s the matter with people that they wouldn’t even take the time to look around the school they were cleaning? make some effort at least to tell the parents hey, we’ve checked all the class rooms and bathrooms and stairwells – i mean even if you did not believe the child could be there, at least check so the searchers would have peace of mind and focus their efforts elsewhere. i used help clean a private school…if a parent had come to the school looking for their child i would of gone through every class room. granted i wouldn’t of let them in for safety reasons but i would of searched. but then again i doubt this would happen because evey teacher and the operator/principle of the school made sure every child was accounted for.

  • Meliss

    Thank goodness he is OK. I have to say, heaven forbid one of my kids went missing, I don’t know that I would check the school 3 times. Mother’s intuition? Way to go!

  • Chris

    I can’t imagine how terrified this family and child must have been. Shame on the school and police for not searching every inch of that school when he was reported missing.

  • Lori

    In this day and age, I’m SO HAPPY to hear this little boy is ok. I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but it shows just how strong of a YOUNG guy you are. Blessings to you and your family. Merry Christmas.

    • jcrown

      Oh for the love of god. He is 13 years old! Not a little boy by any stretch. And he spent 9 hours alone, not three days or even a whole day. I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it wasn’t life threatening. I’m glad he was found safe, and I think the school should be investigated, but wow…this is no great feat of strength or right of passage that he completed.

  • JoneMarie Altshuler

    I am so glad this young man was found okay. May God Bless and merry Christmas.

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