The parents of a seventh-grade boy received a letter from his school in Lafayette, California, warning of possible truancy charges if he missed any more virtual class sessions.
"Out of the blue, we got this letter," Mark Mastrov, the boy's father, told the East Bay Times. "It said my son had missed classes and at the bottom, it referenced a state law which said truants can go to jail for missing 90 minutes of class."
Mastrov assumed the school had been sent in error, so he called the school. He was shocked to learn that the authorities meant business: The law says any kid who misses three full days of school or is tardy for a 30-minute class period on three separate occasions can face jail time.
The policy was obviously intended to cover unexcused absences for in-person education, but the district apparently intends to apply it to virtual education as well.
Mastrov contends that his son didn't miss his classes but simply logged on after his teacher had already taken attendance.
"Who passed this law in their infinite wisdom?" he wonders. "Who in their right mind could do that?"
Virtual learning is a deeply frustrating experience for many families, and schools should be maximally patient with students and their parents. Unfortunately, education officials around the country have been making life unnecessarily difficult for students who don't sign in to their classes on time. Some places have even required teachers to perform virtual wellness checks, and to call the cops on parents if their kids seem checked-out during class. One kid got in trouble because his camera caught a glimpse of a toy gun, as though that's comparable to bringing an actual weapon to a physical school.
This pandemic has caused enough problems on its own. Parents don't need to be threatened with jail time for failing to master a hopelessly frustrating—and temporary—new system.