UPDATE: Marchelle Washington, 14, is reported safe at home with her family as of Friday morning, Nov. 30.
Twenty-four hours is a long time when you don’t where your child is.
“I’m at my wit’s end with this,” worried mother Shavoner Wilson said. The last time she saw her 14-year-old daughter, Marchelle Washington, was when the teen left for school Tuesday morning, Nov. 27.
By Wednesday night, Nov. 28, Wilson still hadn’t seen or heard from her missing child. “This just hurts so bad,” Wilson said.
Her daughter’s disappearance is even more troublesome the more she searches for the teen, Wilson said, and the more she hears about how the freshman went missing. For starters, information relayed to the mother says the girl was thrust into her journey by Beaumont Independent School District Ozen High School Assistant Principal Clerk Lessie Simien, who allowed the student to leave the school on foot after the administrator called a man that’s not a family member to come pick up the student.
“He could have been a child molester or something,” Wilson laments, adding that she had never even heard the man’s name prior to her daughter’s disappearance. “They didn’t get in touch with her parents or anything; they just let her go. Now I don’t know where she is.”
Wilson admits that her daughter is a troubled teen and runaway risk. According to her, that’s the exact reason she keeps close tabs on the young girl.
“I watch her like a hawk,” Wilson said. “I never let her walk anywhere. She never gets to do anything like this – until Ozen let her do it.”
Fourteen-year-old Washington was intent on leaving school Nov. 27. Before lunch, Washington left the campus with another teen girl but was quickly apprehended by the BISD Police Department. The officer brought Washington back to the campus, where the student was reprimanded with a day of out-of-school suspension, starting immediately. Assistant principal clerk Simien attempted to contact Washington’s parents, but after calling a number that was disconnected, allowed the truant teen to offer up a separate contact – that of her grown boyfriend she said was a brother.
“She let this kid, who’s already in discipline problems, tell her that she didn’t live at home anymore, she lived with her brother,” Wilson recounted of the events. “She doesn’t even have a brother. (Simien) has talked to me before; she should’ve known better.”
When contacted, the man said he left the teen at a nearby park. He hasn’t seen her since. He said he was contacted by Simien from Ozen High School but never agreed to pick up Washington from school. Instead, the teen was going to walk off campus and ended up meeting him on a city street.
To make matters worse, Wilson couldn’t even report her daughter missing or as a runaway to the Beaumont Police Department, although the BISD Police Department hadn’t submitted the child’s name into the national database for missing or exploited children. Beaumont Police Department Sgt. Rob Flores confirmed the agency’s assistance in such matters.
“(BISD) has a policing agency and they have things they’re responsible for doing,” Flores said. “That is their jurisdiction, so they have to do their own report and investigation.”
Flores said that the Beaumont Police Department, however, is responsible for submitting runaways and missing children to the national database on behalf of the BISD PD. Why that is, Flores couldn’t say.
“I can only guess that it’s because (the BISD PD) can’t do it themselves, but that’s a question they’d have to answer,” Flores said.
A call to the BISD PD was left unanswered. A question-and-answer page on the BISD PD website insists that the agency can do anything other police departments can do. Still, it wasn’t until the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 28 – more than a full day after the teen went on hiatus – that the BISD PD finally reported Washington to the Beaumont Police Department for submission into the national database as a runaway.
Flores said the city police department has no jurisdiction to investigate the matter. Beaumont police put Washington into the database but will offer no assistance in the investigation.
“It’d be the same if the roles were switched,” Flores said. “Each agency does their own investigations.”
Wilson said “Ozen’s negligence” has now caused a bad situation: “They were in such a hurry to let her go that they were willing to let her leave with some random guy. Then they just let her walk right out of there.”
BISD spokesman Ron Reynolds said he could not comment on the specifics of a student’s activities but did acknowledge that the BISD PD was looking for Wilson’s daughter. According to Reynolds, it is still uncertian whether the student was allowed to leave — or whether Washington just took off on her own. “The Beaumont Independent School District is concerned for the safety of all students and staff,” Reynolds said. “BISD’s police department is taking steps and working with other law enforcement agencies to help ensure the safe return of this student who has been reported missing.”
Reynolds said he could offer no further information as to how the student left BISD’s supervision. A report filed at the BISD PD at noon Tuesday only states, “The student left Ozen and never went home.”
The BISD Student Code of Conduct policy states that in the case of student suspension, “The principal or appropriate administrator shall notify a student’s parent by phone or in writing … within three school days after the administrator becomes aware of the violation.”
Additionally, the policy states, “Before being suspended a student shall have an informal conference with the appropriate administrator, who shall advise the student of the conduct of which he or she is accused. The student shall be given the opportunity to explain his or her version of the incident before the administrator’s decision is made.”
No other procedures for forcing a student to leave the campus were expressly outlined.
“She’s done stupid things before, but nothing like this,” Wilson said of her daughter, fighting back tears. “I don’t even know where to begin to look for her.”
Wilson said she is going to still keep on trying to get the Beaumont Police Department’s help in finding her child.
“Beaumont PD is the only ones going to bring her back here,” she said.