After the alleged kidnapping of a 12-year-old student as she walked to school last week, Perry Hall Middle School officials say they are calling parents in the morning to report when a child is absent.
The girl went missing Nov. 11 and was located several days later in North Carolina. Her mother told police she hadn't known her daughter never made it to class until the girl failed to return home in the afternoon and she called the school.
When a student is absent, the school's long-standing practice had been to send automated phone messages to parents in the evening. A Baltimore County schools spokesman said Tuesday that those messages will now be sent to parents in the late morning.
The Perry Hall Middle principal made the change late last week in response to the case, spokesman Mychael Dickerson wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun, "and will get feedback from parents to see if the new time works better for them."
"Up until last week, he had sent the message in the evening for nearly 10 years with no opposition," he wrote.
There is no countywide policy dictating when a school must notify parents of an absence, Dickerson said. Administrators plan to discuss whether the notification time should be adjusted at other schools, too.
The girl was located at a home in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday night and returned to Maryland over the weekend.
Victor Arroyo, whose age has been reported by different authorities as 22, 32 and 34, faces federal charges of transporting a minor in connection with the girl's disappearance. Arroyo, of Raleigh, also was charged in Wake County, N.C., with first-degree kidnapping and rape, and in Baltimore County with kidnapping and second-degree assault.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Arroyo is in the country illegally. After an encounter with Border Patrol agents in 1999, he returned voluntarily to Mexico, an ICE spokesman said, but later returned to the United States.
According to a search warrant filed in Wake County and obtained Tuesday by The Baltimore Sun, the girl had communicated with Arroyo through Kik Messenger, an instant-messaging app that is used on mobile devices.
On Oct. 17, the girl told a friend through another electronic device, her Xbox Live, that she was going to run away with "some guy."
She said she was scared because "he said he was gonna kidnap me" and that she had told him where she lived.
When her friend asked whether she had told her mother that the man knew where she lived, the girl replied that she had not. She said she thought she would "get in big trouble" because she wasn't allowed to use Kik.