AKRON, Ohio - A Barberton man has been arrested after police say he slipped into an Akron middle school where he wandered the halls helping himself to electronic equipment and luring a 12-year-old girl into a classroom where she claims he fondled her.
Police said Samson W. Peterson, 21, wandered into the Inventors Hall of Fame Stem School, slipping in through a door as a mail carrier was leaving the building.
"He was somewhere in the school for probably 45 minutes before he was actually noticed inside the building. He was actually walking into classrooms, into closet areas, into the staff areas where he shouldn't be before anyone confronted him. Nobody actually confronted him until the 12-year-old girl alerted people in the building that something was wrong," said Lt. Rick Edwards of the Akron Police.
The school was immediately placed on lockdown and Peterson was arrested inside the school.
National Inventors Hall of Fame Stem Middle School does have security cameras, a school resource officer, a private security officer and another staff member assigned to security, according to Superintendent David James.
"We do train our staff. Everyone should have their, you know, Akron Public School I.D. on. If you see someone who doesn't, they should be challenged. So, there are some things that we need to look at in our own internal investigation of interviewing staff to actually find out who saw what and when," said James.
The superintendent said the building does have a lot of traffic, including students from the nearby University of Akron who come and go as part of a co-op agreement between the school district and the university.
James told FOX 8 that University of Akron students were in the building at the time.
But parents of students at the school are alarmed and are concerned about how someone could have been in the building for that long without being detected.
"It surprises me because I mean in order to get in, you do have to hit a buzzer and you actually have to be buzzed in to get into the school and then you go into the office immediately to sign in. How this individual did what he did, I'm baffled by it," said Michele Warner.
Warner, however, does believe that security at the school is generally very good.
"We are working with our security team to make sure, you know, we can do what we can to make sure this doesn't happen again and to understand how this person gained entrance to the building and look at whatever steps we need to take to make sure our students and staff are safe," said James.
Peterson was charged with breaking and entering, criminal trespassing and gross sexual imposition.
Police said when he was arrested he had a computer and two digital cameras that he was attempting to take from the school.
The superintendent said it demonstrates the challenges of trying to secure more than 50 school buildings in a large district.
"My daughter went to that school up 'til last year and so it's a personal issue for me. We are very concerned about, you know, in a downtown school with the traffic downtown, very concerned about security and so those procedures and practices will be reviewed."