A couple of weeks ago, about 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, a Morgan Hill girl missing since March 16 who is presumed to have been abducted on her way to the school bus at 7 a.m. Her mother wasn't notified of her absence in school until receiving an automatically generated email at 6 p.m. that day. Contacting NUSD, I learned that similar lags in notification of absences could easily happen here.
Not only did I write the post, but I also emailed the Board of Trustees and Superintendent Shalee Cunningham. I mean, it's all well and good to lobby for change in a public forum such as this, but that's not the same as asking directly for change. This is what I wrote:
"I want to draw your attention to the lack of a uniformed system regarding the notification of parents/guardians when a student is absent from school. I have copied below the response Leslie Benjamin gave me regarding my query about what time of day parents are notified. As you can see, NUSD does not have a policy. In order to answer my question, Leslie made a number of calls to find out what is done at the various levels. I believe not only is a policy required, but also that the policy should dictate a far earlier notification time than is currently done at some sites. I imagine the procedures in place were implemented long before the explosion of texting and cell phone usage and smart phones.
I believe I am not the only parent who would like to know — via an automated email or phone or text — as early as feasible. Perhaps you have heard of the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar of Morgan Hill. She never boarded her school bus at 7 o'clock in the morning. She was marked absent in each class all day; however, her mother did not receive an automated email about Sierra's absence until 11 hours later. She is presumed to have been abducted.
I recognize the rare occurrence for what it is. But what about the kids who are skipping school or who are running away? Why not notify parents long before they can come to real harm or harm others? I just believe that, in this day and age when so many are tethered to their equipment, an earlier notification could make a difference.
I would appreciate your looking into this and working toward finding a workable solution to best protect the kids."
And you know what? Dr. Cunningham replied within a few days of my email and noted that, while she didn't believe there needed to be a policy, it is now standard operating procedure for the schools to "make personal phone calls to parents whose student has not come to school, these calls are completed by 11 a.m."
It became standard operating procedure because, according to Dr. Cunningham, she instructed all of the schools to make it so. Public Information Officer Leslie Benjamin provided a bit more detail, noting that "San Marin changed its calling procedure and nows make personal calls when a student has missed their first two classes and they haven’t heard from the parent."
I am grateful that Dr. Cunningham and others so quickly saw the need for change and implemented the change immediately. As a parent, I thank you.
And I hope we never have to care that these calls about absent students are made early in the school day.