Lincoln Elementary principal apologizes for not calling 911

Lincoln Elementary principal apologizes for not calling 911

PALM DESERT, Calif. - "I do want to apologize because I'm here to help," said Lincoln Elementary School principal Maryalice Owings.  

Desert Sands Unified School District held a meeting for parents and staff Friday morning about the school's emergency medical procedures in the wake of a recent incident. 

Visibly upset, Owings stood before parents and colleagues to say she's sorry.

"I wanted to apologize because it just added anguish to the family. They were worried about their son and it just was worrisome when they got here and there wasn't a paramedic here," Owings said. 

In December, a 6-year-old student hit his head on the playground, which caused an inch and a half gash on his forehead requiring stitches.  When he went to the nurse's office, Owings refused to call 911 until his mother arrived at the school.  

When she got there, Owings asked a school secretary to call the police, leading to accusations of racial profiling and discrimination. We asked the principal to explain in her own words. 

"Somebody said, 'Should we call 911?' and I said, 'Yea, just call the police.'  And again that was just my wording in that situation. It had nothing to do with anything about the little boy or the parents at all," Owings said.

But some parents attending the meeting don't accept her apology.

"I don't believe it. That's not true. Are the police trained to come and rescue you?  If my daughter gets hurt I don't want them to call me I want them to call the paramedics," said Martha Lopez, a parent of a 5th grader at Lincoln Elementary. 

Those who came to Owings' defense included the mother of 10-year-old Adrian Grajeda, who lost his leg after a car rammed through the fence outside the school during recess in October. 

"She's been very nice to me throughout all this situation. And that's why I'm here to support her," she said in front of the group.   

The district also stands behind Owings, calling her an excellent principal with nearly three decades of experience in education. The district's priority as the new year begins is to revamp emergency procedures at the school.   

"The child's safety is the most important thing. We don't question whether we should call or not, if there's a question in your mind always call 911," said Sherry Johnstone, Assistant Superintendent for Desert Sands Unified School District. 

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