VIERA, Fla. – Nearly a week after a 16-year-old girl walked off a Viera campus and seemingly disappeared, parents and school officials continue to ask questions and raise awareness about the case, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
Those concerns spilled over into the classroom Monday, as about 50 students walked out of Pinecrest Academy Space Coast to demand authorities help locate the teen, identified as Maria Perez.
Maria was last seen April 7 at the academy, 7550 Stadium Pkwy, where she attends eighth grade, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Missing and Endangered Persons Clearinghouse site. Students - mostly sixth and seventh-graders - carried signs and chanted “find Maria.”
“All I can tell you is that she was a student at Pinecrest and she’s been missing since last week. We are working with the authorities,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, the executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance and spokesperson for the dual-language school.
“Her friends and school community are concerned about her, they are worried,” Norman-Teck said.
Maria, who may be of Guatemalan descent, according to those sharing her story, was at the K-8th grade school and was supposed to meet her foster mother at a designated site on campus after dismissal for the day, school officials said.
A short time later the school was notified that Maria — who may also struggle with English — never met with her guardian.
School officials then went back to review surveillance video and spotted Maria — still wearing her purple uniform polo and uniform gray jacket, black pants and boots — leaving the campus after dismissal.
The video was shared with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. The school notified other parents of the situation and also created a flyer with the girl’s picture for distribution.
The Sheriff’s Office has not returned calls about the case or issued any public notices about the missing teen.
It is not known if Maria was meeting anyone or if authorities thought she walked to an unknown destination amid the heavy traffic along one of the county’s busiest commercial corridors.
One parent of a student attending the academy, Marco Vieira, said he was working to get the word out about the child and wanted to know why the case had not garnered much attention.
No Amber Alerts — a statewide system with set protocols for issuing public notices on endangered youth — were issued.
“There are strict criteria in place for Amber Alerts. In the cases where an Amber Alert is issued there has to be a well-founded belief by law enforcement that the child is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury,” said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for FDLE.
There were no official notices posted about the girl or whether sheriff’s investigators thought she may be a runaway.
“I don’t care about the politics, a child is missing,” Marco Vieira said. “The school had to put out the bulletin, but we need to find out what is happening.”
Baily Gallion contributed to this story.
J.D. Gallop is a Criminal Justice/Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JDGallop.