- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

The father of a severely autistic 7-year-old boy found wandering on the Capital Beltway said yesterday he had not received an explanation from the Prince George's County school system.

Master Sgt. Mark Delaney, whose son, Joshua, was spotted on the Inner Loop on Monday, had not received the apology that schools Chief Executive Officer Iris T. Metts extended to the family in a press release.

On Monday, Joshua rode a school bus from his home on Andrews Air Force Base to the supervised summer school program at Skyline Elementary School in Suitland. School broke for recess before 11:30 a.m. Monday. Joshua left school grounds on his own, walked down Randolph Road, turned right onto Suitland Road and then up the Exit 9 on-ramp on the Beltway.

About noon, a couple found the boy walking alone on the Inner Loop near Auth Road, more than a mile from the school.

Sgt. Delaney said he and his wife, Martina, met Wednesday morning with Franklin Rishel, the school system's chief of staff.

"He did apologize to us. He said he was sorry this actually did happen," said Sgt. Delaney, a network-operations superintendent for the 89th Communications Squadron. "It was short and sweet. Maybe 20 minutes. No more than that."

County school officials were scheduled to meet yesterday to determine how Joshua could have wandered away from the school.

A phone message left at the system's public information office was not returned.

Joshua whose developmental handicap includes delayed speech, poor communication skills and difficulty following directions and instructions began attending the extended program July 1 and had a special requirement.

Sgt. and Mrs. Delaney immediately withdrew Joshua from the program.

Sgt. Delaney said he was not sure what they would do in the long term.

"I was thinking about what's going to happen to him this fall for the upcoming school year," he said.

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