Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation into law on Friday requiring parents to notify officials when their child will be absent from school.
The law also stipulates that school officials must contact a parent if a student is absent without prior notification to the school.
“Community leaders and parents will now be required to take immediate, personal responsibility for the children they must care for and protect,” state Senator Kevin O’Toole, who initiated the new law, said in a press release. “Just a few seconds of accountability can be enough to save lives and solve abductions.”
The bill, known as Tabitha’s Law, is named for a Tennessee teenager, Tabitha Tudor, who has been missing since 2003. Tudor's parents were not aware she did not attend school on the day she went missing. The school allegedly did not contact her parents to tell them she was absent. Tudor's parents said they did not know she was missing until almost 5 p.m. that day.
O'Toole said that the first few hours after a child abduction are critical in the investigation of such incidents.
State 40th District Assemblyman Scott Rumana is the primary sponsor of the bill Christie signed.
“Unanticipated absences can be a sign of a bigger problem, which can be solved by being proactive,” Rumana said in a statement. “Responding quickly to an unexaplained absence can avert a tragedy and the heartache that families and communities feel when they hear a story like [Tudor’s].”