For months, 7 year old Samaya Dillard says she tried to please her 2nd grade teacher but to no avail. She would often go home and tell her parents, “My teacher just doesn’t like me.”
Her concerned parents Jason and Damia Dillard tried everything in their power to get Ms. Lupe Rodriguez to have a better relationship with their child. Since the beginning of the year, the former Jefferson Elementary school student in Sacramento, California would complain to her parents that Ms. Rodriguez wasn’t “a nice teacher.”
Jason Dillard told Your Black World, “We hoped to bridge the relationship between Samaya and her teacher by visiting the classroom, suggesting Samaya receive more work, suggesting Samaya be moved to the front of the classroom, but Ms. Rodriguez did not act on any of our suggestions.”
They even met with the principal and vice principal of the school hoping that a closer relationship can be established between their child and her teacher.
Unfortunately because of over-crowding, Samaya couldn’t be moved to another classroom and the young girl continued to go home with negative reports from her teacher. Samaya would constantly complain to her parents how her teacher berated her on almost a daily basis.
Everything came to a head on December 18 2013. On that day, Samaya was given a citation after she accidentally knocked over a cup of water and cried in frustration. Samaya alleged that Ms. Rodriguez dragged her chair outside to the hallway area while she was still seated in it.
Sitting outside the classroom, unsupervised and also with no coat on, her teacher left her in that state for over an hour. She even escorted the other children to recess while Samaya continued to sit in the hallway area.
Frustrated and feeling emotionally defeated, Samaya did the unthinkable. She left the school campus and began to walk, not towards home, but towards a busy highway.
“She said that she didn’t want to live anymore,” stated her father Jason Dillard. “She didn’t wander off campus just to leave, she wandered off to go starve herself.”
Samaya walked 2.5 miles away from the school campus. She was exhausted when she entered an ‘On The Border’ restaurant and asked for a cup of water. The general manager was alarmed to see her so he called the police. The police refused to respond to the call citing they hadn’t received any phone calls about a missing child.
Meanwhile back at the school, a whole hour passed before anyone realized that Samaya was missing.
Jason Dillard said when he received the phone call from the principal stating that his child was missing off campus his whole world felt like it was coming to an end. He shared “I thought at that point I could very easily never see my daughter again. The first thing a person thinks when a child is missing is that their child has been kidnap. A whole lot can happen in an hour.”
He immediately jumped into his car and went to the school where he was greeted by the principal. She informed him that they’d been looking for Samaya on their own for an hour. The principal then instructed Mr. Dillard to go to her office and wait for the police to arrive—she was going to put the campus on lock down. Two and half hours passed.
Jason Dillard did the opposite. He gathered his two older twin daughters whose school was adjacent to his younger daughter’s, and they drove around aimlessly looking for Samaya. He found Samaya walking close to their home. She walked more than 5 miles total.
Says, Dillard, “When we saw her, her sisters jumped out the car and just hugged her and wouldn’t let her go. I was relieved.”
The next day the Dillard’s met with school officials who admitted that the teacher didn’t follow proper procedures when it came to disciplining a child.
Mr. Dillard stated that the principal, Danisha Keeler, allegedly said that they didn’t call the police initially when they noticed that Samaya was missing because Samaya was such a good kid that they didn’t expect for her to leave the school grounds.
The teacher, Ms. Lupe Rodriguez, is currently on paid administrative leave and now the Dillard’s have their attorneys involved.
The Dillard’s have since placed Samaya in another school further away from home.
“She is now in a majority Caucasian school and the whole culture is completely different,” stated Jason Dillard.
No one from the old school district called the family to issue an apology or statement or to check to see how the young girl is fairing. For now, Samaya is suffering from trust issues. She doesn’t trust her parents because she feels they didn’t protect her. She is seeing a therapist.
“We are slowly building back our trust with her,” Jason Dillard states, “But it’s going to take some time. I don’t even let my children play outside by themselves so to hear the journey my seven year old took is mind blowing—just mind blowing.”