Missing Girl Prompts Changes in Absence-Notification Policies

By Michele Molnar — April 27, 2012 1 min read
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When should high schools notify parents about a student’s absence?

That seemingly innocuous question took on layers of meaning and urgency in the San Francisco Bay Area after 15-year-old Sierra LaMar disappeared on the morning of March 16 on her way to school.

LaMar’s mother was notified of her daughter’s absence that evening by automated call from Sobrato High School, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Sierra is still missing.

Reporter Sharon Noguchi writes that school districts in the area are revisiting their unexcused-absence-notification practices in the wake of the girl’s disappearance.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District, which encompasses Sobrato High, chose to add a second daily notification, so parents will receive calls at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Parents in Morgan Hill may also go online to check on their child’s attendance during the day—a feature that existed when LaMar disappeared.

For the 2012-13 school year, Morgan Hill parents may have the options of receiving notification by text message and email as well, the story indicates.

The Los Gatos-Saratoga High School District has chosen to add a lunchtime notification when students miss morning classes, Noguchi reports. The Palo Alto district is also discussing changes to its policy for secondary school notifications.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.