By Maureen Robertson
An older man attempted to force a Ramona High School student into a gray sedan as she walked to school Monday morning, Principal Tony Newman said in a telephone message to parents of all RHS students.
The girl described the man as 50ish, with white hair and a white beard, and wearing a white hat, sunglasses, a green jacket and a plaid shirt, said Newman.
The girl was walking alone along San Vicente Road off 11th Street near the propane tanks behind the Ramona Terrace Estates mobile home park between 7:30 and 7:50 a.m. when the man rolled down the window of the vehicle and tried to convince her to get in the car, said Newman.
Sgt. Daniel Vengler with the sheriff’s Ramona substation said the suspect initially told the girl, “It’s raining. I’ll give you a ride.” She refused, Vengler said, and the man said, in a more demanding tone, “get in the car.”
The girl ran into the field past the tanks “and got onto the campus the back way,” said Newman. She reported the incident to school officials, who contacted her mother.
“Mom came to the school, picked her up and took her to the police station,” Newman said Monday afternoon, adding that the student was back in school.
In a telephone message to the parents of all RHS students, Newman asked parents to remind their children to take safety measures while walking to and from school.
“Try not to walk alone, walk with friends,” said Newman. “When approached, do just as she did, do not engage in the conversation but try to run to safety...If someone pulls over, don’t get closer to the car, keep going in the opposite direction. She used that good common sense.
“...If you do sense danger, react, run, go in the opposite direction.”
Vengler said, “We want to remind parents to encourage their children if at any point a stranger tries to give them a ride, even if they sound like they’re polite — or demanding... to scream, run away and tell a trusted adult immediately.”
Newman said he and other staff members will be “out and about, vigilant, but there’s only so many of us.” If other adults see something suspicious, he asks for their help. A car that drove behind the suspect vehicle honked some time after the man stopped, noted Newman. It is unknown if the person who honked suspected something or if the suspect vehicle was blocking part of a travel lane.
“All the kids are our kids,” said Newman. “With all the parents on the streets, we have more eyes at our disposal.”
With Olive Peirce Middle School and Ramona Community School near Ramona High School, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent Robert Graeff directed the principals of those two schools to also send telephone messages to parents of all students at their schools, alerting them of the apparent attempted abduction. He recommended that the principals of the other schools in the district do the same, his office reported.