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Kitchener school warns parents of man allegedly watching, following students

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A Kitchener elementary school is responding to reports of a suspicious man who appeared to be watching or following students.

The first incidents at Smithson Public School, in the Stanley Park area, were reported on Jan. 17.

In an email to parents, the school said a “white man was standing across the road from Smithson [Public School] at second break watching the students.” That was reported to the school by a parent. The message went on to say “after school, one student went to the Short Stop store and the man followed and went into the pizza place and watched her from the sidewalk on Krug Street until she got to the construction/crossing guard area.”

The man, according to the email, was described as white, approximately 60-years-old, and wearing a black toque, black sweatpants and a black coat.

CTV News reached out to the Waterloo Regional Police Service but they said they had no information on these events.

ANOTHER INCIDENT REPORTED A WEEK LATER

The email from Smithson Public School warned parents of another incident on Jan. 23.

A parent reported that two Grade 6 boys felt they were being following as they were returning home after school. The students were on a Burbank Street walking pathway when they spotted the man. They decided to take a longer route home, towards Ottawa Street South and Nottingham Avenue. The man allegedly continued following the boys. Once they lost sight of the man, the two split up and arrived home safely.

The school says one of their parents called police.

Police confirmed they are investigating the Jan. 23 report.

According to police, the man was described as between 50 and 60-years-old with a slim build, wearing a baby blue hat, black gloves and a dark gray or black jacket.

PARENT REACTS

“When you’re sending your children to school, you think that’s a safe place for them where they can go to feel safe playing outside, but apparently it’s not so,” said McKayla Brunet, whose six-year-old son goes to Smithson Public School. “It’s pretty scary and it’s unnerving.”

The email from Smithson Public School informed parents that a “police officer will be walking the route the boys took to see if anyone has cameras that show the sidewalk in front of the house.”

“I would like to be able to send my child to school without fear of being kidnapped or taken by a stranger, so I would like police to be involved and find the person or persons,” added Brunet.

SAFETY TIPS FROM SCHOOL BOARD

The Waterloo Region District School Board is urging parents to have a conversation with their children about street safety. They shared the following tips for students:

  • Stay with your friend on your walk home
  • Go to the nearest store/house/school you know and ask for help if you are feeling scared
  • Don’t put yourself into a dangerous or odd-feeling situation
  • Trust your instincts/gut – if it feels weird or unsafe, say something to an adult
  • If you are being followed by a vehicle, run in the opposite direction
  • Put a nametag inside your backpack
  • Take a different route home 

-- With reporting by CTV Kitchener's Carmen Wong

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