10/23/2014 03:05 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST

Witness foils attempted kidnapping at Hamilton school

Hamilton police have launched an investigation after a man tried to kidnap a child from a local elementary school Thursday.

According to police, a kindergarten student was led away from the playground at Earl Kitchener Elementary School by a man he didn’t know around 12:10 p.m.

The man walked away from the school with the child, when a witness in the area saw the child crying. The witness stepped in and the man ran off.

The man was last seen walking south on MacDonald Avenue from Homewood Avenue.

The child was shaken but unharmed, police say. The witness took the child back to the school and the police were called in. The child is now safe and with his parents, police say.

"He's home, he's safe, and there are no injuries," Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinning told CBC Hamilton.

A lot of unanswered questions

Police are now on scene trying to find the suspect alongside police dogs. “We will remain in the area for the time being,” a police news release reads.

Superintendent of student achievement Sue Dunlop told CBC Hamilton that the school board has "a lot of unanswered questions as well about exactly what happened today."

"We know parents will have questions," she said. "But our focus today was on making sure that all students are safe."

She says the child was taken during "outdoor play time" as part of the kindergarten curriculum. The student was outside with his class and being supervised by a teacher and an early childhood educator. The playground is fenced off with gates at either side. The children were all behind the gate, Dunlop says.

She could not say exactly how many children were outside when the abduction happened. The school board is now making plans to review procedures in light of what happened, she says, "and if necessary, we will be changing them."

The school is holding a parent meeting to talk about the incident on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. It would have been earlier, except the school gym is being used as a polling station for the election on Monday, Dunlop says.

'It's worrisome'

Hamilton Community Foundation President and CEO Terry Cooke has two children in school at Earl Kitchener, and he picked them up just after 3 p.m. "We're relieved to have our kids home safe," he said. He and his wife received phone calls from the school mid-afternoon with a "pretty good level of detail" about what was going on, he said.

The school reacted as well as it could in a frantic situation, he said. "As a parent, you almost respond instinctively in a protective way," he said. "It's worrisome, but it's part of living in the world today."

The suspect is described as a white man, about five foot seven inches tall, 160 pounds with a slight build, sculpted cheekbones with a pointy noise and wavy, chin-length hair. He was last seen wearing a grey t-shirt.

As a precaution, the school asked parents that all students be released directly to the care of a parent or guardian at the end of classes.

Students who usually take the bus needed to be picked up from school, police say.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 911.