Sierra LaMar’s Disappearance Raises Questions About School Absentee Notifications

MORGAN HILL (KCBS) – Although Sierra LaMar missed her school bus in the morning and was marked absent by all her teachers the day she disappeared, an automated e-mail from the school notifying her mother did not go out until 6 o’clock that night.

Like most schools in the Bay Area, Sobrato High School has not adopted technology that would allow for more prompt notifications that, in this case, would have alerted authorities 11 hours earlier that Sierra was missing.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

“The moment that you take roll and find a student isn’t where he or she is supposed to be, a text message, a phone call or some other notification could go out. And in theory at least, it could make a difference,” said KCBS technology analyst Larry Magid, who sits on the board of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Only Berkeley School District has adopted that system, according to a Mercury News survey of nine by Bay Area school districts, and district officials there said the system is geared towards curbing truancy. Other districts indicated end-of-day notifications were timed so parents wouldn’t miss them by, for example, having an answering machine message deleted by the truant child.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District does have an online system that allows parents to log in during the day that shows whether a child has missed a class.

Marlene LaMar, Sierra’s mother, drove to the school as soon as she got the e-mail on March 16, assuming her daughter had just missed the school bus home. She then contacted police about 6:30 p.m.

Volunteers organized by the Klaas Kids Foundation have been helping authorities with the search all week. Previous police searches turned up Sierra’s purse and clothing, but there has been no sign of her whereabouts.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said investigators now suspect the 15-year-old may have been abducted by an acquaintance or other person she recognized.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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