7th-Grader Warned of Possible Arrest After Missing 3 Zoom Sessions

A seventh-grader was warned of possible arrest after he missed three 30-minute Zoom classes without a valid excuse. The California school labeled the student as truant.

Mark Mastrov, an East Bay city resident, said that he received a letter from his son's school, Stanley Middle School, stating that his child has missed less than two hours of Zoom sessions. Under California law, his 12-year-old son, Merek, may be considered a truant of the state and could be arrested. Mastrov describes it as overkill. 

The letter is a result of new state guidelines

Speaking to PEOPLE, Stanley Principal Betsy Balmat said that the letter was to comply with the state attendance laws passed last summer. She furthered that it is part of their responsibility to the state for the student attendance review boards. And that it is the school's responsibility to ensure that their students are engaged and learning.

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Mastrov said that he called an administrator at Stanley Middle School and asked if they would try and arrest his child at home or fine him for not getting his son to his Zoom class perfectly and on time, daily. His son attends Zoom classes up to seven hours daily.

The boy missed three half-hour Zoom sessions

In the letter, the Stanley Middle School administrator listed the three half-hour periods that Merek missed over the last month and said that a student is considered truant under California law since the pupil was absent without a valid excuse. ABC7 News noted that one of the possible consequences is that the student may be subject to arrest under Education Code Section 48264.

Principal Balmat told the outlet that Mastrov should have first received a phone call that would give them a chance to clear Merek's absences. The dad, however, said he didn't receive such a call. He added that other Lafayette parents also receive similar letters containing the same threat of arrest. 

The father is urging a change in state law

Mastrov said he is writing to lawmakers to urge a change in state law. He said that we're in a pandemic, and the governor is trying to manage the situation. However, it is "ridiculous" if California spends a lot of time focusing on arresting 12-year-olds for missing 90 minutes of school.

CA Senate Bill 98, which was passed this past summer, mandates school districts to adopt a learning continuity and attendance plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ABC7 News noted that California public schools rely on daily student attendance numbers for their state and federal funding.

According to CNN, under California penal code, if a child misses 10% of a school year without a valid excuse, the child's parent could face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

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