Preschool Teachers Suspended After 7 Toddlers Snuck Out & Were Found Wandering Into Traffic

Main road in Arizona where children wandered
12 News/YouTube

Drivers cruising down a busy main road in Gilbert, Arizona, were shocked last Friday to see not one, not two, but seven toddlers wandering into or near the road unsupervised. All of the children attended Little Sunshine's Playhouse & Preschool, and were supposed to be under the careful watch of several teachers when they made their escape, which luckily ended without injury.

  • The children reportedly escaped through a gate in the outside play area of the preschool, before two of them made their way into the road.

    Once there, several drivers had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting the toddlers in what witnesses say was a terrifying scene.

    Samantha Crouch, one of the drivers on the road at the time, reportedly shared on a Gilbert-based Facebook group that she came "very, very close" to hitting the two toddlers, who she estimated to be around 18 months old.

    "We're talking screeching tires and honking horns," Crouch wrote, according to USA Today.

    The rest of the toddlers who'd escaped had luckily stayed on the nearby sidewalk.

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  • Fortunately, Crouch and one of the other drivers on the road were able to walk the children back to safety, and brought them to the nearest teacher.

    To her shock, the staff seemed to have "no idea" that the kids were even missing.

    "They didn't even know the kids were gone until I pounded on the lobby door screaming," Crouch wrote in her post, adding that the staffer complained about the "confusing" gate latch. 

  • Being the mother of a 22-month-old child herself, Crouch says the entire incident left her "terrified" and "sick to my stomach."

    "I immediately called my kid's day care saying: 'Hey, is everything going OK? Just give them an extra hug for me,'" she recalled.

    Crouch is just thankful that the drivers on the road that day were all paying attention, even if the preschool teachers were not. 

    "Thank goodness no one was texting and driving," she wrote.

  • A police investigation determined that a "structural failure" with the school's gate is what ultimately led to the breakout.

    Seven kids were reportedly pushing against the gate latch when it broke around 9:45 a.m., Sgt. Mark Marino shared. At the time of the incident, however, none of the teachers saw what happened because they were out of view of that particular gate at the time. 

    The school has since issued a formal apology and fixed the gate, which is now said to be working correctly. In addition, the two teachers at the center of the incident have been suspended.

    "As soon as we learned of the incident, we immediately contacted the parents of the students involved, suspended the teachers pending a full investigation, and self-reported to the state of Arizona childcare licensing," noted an email from the school to USA Today. "We are taking this incident very seriously as the safety of each of our students is our top priority."

    Administrators are going one step further, too: The school has reportedly purchased a gate alarm system that will sound "a loud audible alarm" every time the gate is opened. It has yet to be installed, but until it is, children will not be allowed to play in the outside play area.

    For now, no charges have been filed, and school administrators and parents are just grateful that no children were harmed.