A man who signed a 16-year-old girl out of school 10 times without parental consent has now gone missing with the teen.
According to Philadelphia local news station NBC10, Amy Yu, a 16-year-old student at Lehigh Valley Academy, and 45-year-old Kevin Esterly, who is married with two children, disappeared from Allentown, Pa., on Monday.
“They’re probably together somewhere,” Colonial Regional police Det. Gary Hammer told the station.
Investigators said the pair have been in a secret relationship, and between November and February, Esterly signed Yu out of school 10 times because the girl may have added him to her school emergency contact list as her stepfather. On Feb. 9, Yu’s mother had called the school to report that Esterly had signed out her daughter that day.
“Students are only permitted to be signed out by someone on the emergency list,” Susan Mauser, the chief executive officer at Lehigh Valley Academy in Bethlehem, Pa., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She also sent the following statement:
“We can confirm that Mr. Esterly was last present on school grounds on February 9, 2018. After that date, due to circumstances we cannot disclose pursuant to student privacy constraints, he was prohibited from entering school grounds, and the police were to be notified if he returned. Due to federal and state privacy constraints, the school is prohibited from releasing any additional information about the student or the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation unless the parent provides express consent for the school to do so.”
Mauser added, “We are, however, working closely with the police and are providing whatever information and assistance we can to assist them and Amy’s family during this difficult time.”
Yahoo Lifestyle could not reach a representative from the Allentown Police Department for comment, but according to NBC10, the U.S. Marshals Office and the FBI are searching for the man and teen.
It’s unknown how Esterly managed to remove the girl on 10 prior occasions.
“We don’t know details of this case, but it’s possible that the school records were hacked, either by the student or the man, to add his name to the emergency list,” Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a Georgia-based nonprofit campus safety center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’ve had cases involving students breaking into school security cameras or emergency system notifications. Another possibility is that the man simply walked into the school and identified himself as the girl’s stepfather.”
According to Spencer Coursen, a threat management expert and founder of the Coursen Security Group, there’s also a divide between policy and practice. “A school may have a 10-step process for signing out students, but if no one enforces it this can easily happen,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
A teen who wants to slip out of school only has to outsmart a paper trail. “Many schools have parents sign out their children on a piece of paper or take attendance by hand, instead of electronically,” says Coursen. “And no matter the case, how often are the records audited and updated? Who is following up on protocol? Sometimes policies are stricter on paper than in practice.”
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