Mother at center of 2020 Amber Alert sues the Iron Co. School District

May 13, 2022, 5:10 PM
Iron Co. schools say they have a policy of checking students out of school. A suit from the mother ...
Iron County School District's offices in Cedar City are pictured on Wednesday April 7, 2021.

IRON COUNTY, Utah —  A parent is suing the Iron County School District claiming a woman she did not know was able to check her 5-year-old out of South Elementary on November 6, 2020. 

Court papers say Emilee Winston’s suit against the Iron County School District claims it violated policy by releasing the child to an adult she did not know. The unknown adult also did not have authorization to take Winston’s child out of school.

According to that same document, Winston had hired a long-term sitter for her three children, ages five-months, two and five. Court papers say on Nov. 6, 2020, the sitter Emily Luciano sent Jessica Evans to pick up Winston’s oldest child.  The Iron County School District is facing a lawsuit for negligence.  The suit claims damages of at least $300,000 to be determined at trial. 

The babysitter had previously been involved in an Amber Alert

Luciano is being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In addition to this, she was at the center of a 2000 Amber Alert. She began watching Winston’s children after being hired by Winston from a Facebook sitter group.

The court document says Evans believed Winston had known that she had her oldest child. She was helping Luciano babysit. According to the timeline of events, Evans kept the child until 3:00 a.m. the following day until police paid a visit.

Papers filed in Fifth District court show the middle child, a two-year-old,  was dropped off with Evans before Luciano kidnapped Winston’s youngest child, the five-month-old.

Luciano and the infant then illegally flew to Denver International Airport. She told the mother that the two were going to a dentist appointment in St. George, Utah.  When efforts to find the exact whereabouts of the children failed, Winston called authorities who traced Luciano’s phone to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Law enforcement located the oldest two children at the home of Jessica Evans. Then an AMBER alert began for the recovery of the five-month-old child.

The School system had a student check-out process to ensure student safety

The suit seeks $300,000 in damages in the Fifth Judicial District Court for Iron County.  Court documents state that South Elementary School, included in the Iron County School District, developed and instituted a student check-out process to ensure student safety.  

Ben Horsley, spokesman for Granite School District, says systems statewide have similar multi-layered policies in place before someone can check a student out of school. At Granite schools, parents must provide an updated and accurate list and must show an ID.

“You can have up to three to five contacts, there’s a few spots there for a variety of emergency contacts, that might be the babysitter, it could be the daycare provider, it can be whoever the parent wants,” says Horsley.

Iron County district’s policy states that if a person who is not the parent picks up a student, prior parental approval is required. Additionally, the individual must be on an authorized contact list.  

Horsley says the most important thing a parent can do is make sure all the information on the contact list is up to date.  Granite parents can do this online.

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Mother at center of 2020 Amber Alert sues the Iron Co. School District