Dad Says School Threatened Son, 12, with Arrest After He Missed 3 Zoom Classes: 'It's Ridiculous'
With his 12-year-old son attending school remotely, California dad Mark Mastrov said he didn’t think much of it when the boy missed less than two hours of Zoom sessions – that is, until he received a letter from school administrators saying the absences could possibly put the tween under arrest.
“This is our fourth child in this school and out of the blue, we got a letter,” Mastrov told KGO-TV.
His son Merek is a seventh-grader at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, and has been going to school remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic, the outlet reported.
After he missed three 30-minute Zoom sessions in absences that were considered unexcused, his school reportedly sent home a letter saying that under Education Code Section 48264, Merek was considered a truant, and could be subject to arrest.
“He can become a truant of the state and he could be arrested,” Mastrov, who founded the gym chain 24 Hour Fitness, told KGO. “I said, ‘Are you going to come arrest my son at my home or try to fine me for not getting him to his Zoom class on time perfect every day?’”
According to a letter obtained by the outlet, the school laid out the three specific periods Merek had missed, and cited the California law that officially labeled him a truant and made him subject to possible arrest.
Stanley Principal Betsy Balmat, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, acknowledged the letter to KGO, and said that it was the result of state attendance laws.
“The letter is part of our responsibility to the state for our student attendance review boards,” she said. “As always, the schools have a responsibility to ensure students are engaged and learning.”
The section specifically cited in the letter says that an attendance supervisor, peace officer, school administrator or probation officer may arrest or assume temporary custody during school hours of “any minor subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education found away from his or her home and who is absent from school without valid excuse.”
Mastrov told the outlet that other parents have received similar letters threatening their children with arrest, and that he planned to write to lawmakers to implement a change in policy.
“Obviously we’re in a pandemic and Gov. Newsom is trying to manage it, but if the state of California is really going to spend a lot of time focusing on arresting 12-year-old children for missing 90 minutes of school in 10 months, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
The superintendent for the Lafayette School District did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.