SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) — A school district blames human error on educators' failure to keep track of a special-needs home-schooled girl who later died from neglect, and a newspaper reports that state law provides no ramifications for such slip-ups.
The Springfield News-Sun also reports (http://bit.ly/zMDCbn ) that the Ohio Department of Education does not keep accurate numbers on home-schooled children, with its estimates failing to include hundreds of students.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine tells the newspaper there should be hearings about what went wrong in the Dayton school district's handling of Makayla Norman, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who weighed 28 pounds when she died last year. The girl's mother and three nurses have been indicted on criminal charges in her death.
"There needs to be some accountability for the school district for losing track of this child," DeWine said. "Do we need different laws? Do we need different enforcement?"
The girl's family registered her as a home-schooled child in the district during her kindergarten year in 2004. But state-required annual home-school assessments were never subsequently filed.
"Human error" was responsible, said spokeswoman Jill Moberley. She said a paper record wasn't re-entered into the system as required on an annual basis when Makayla was first registered. Records are now kept electronically.
"Certainly our records are kept differently," Moberley said. "We have a much more sophisticated student information system."
The state estimates that 22,000 children are home-schooled, said Ohio Department of Education spokesman Patrick Gallaway. But hundreds of students are missing from the count. For example, state data says Columbus schools had no home-schooled students last year, but a district spokesman said there were 477.
The Christian Home Educators of Ohio, the state's largest home schooling group, says new regulations would punish the majority for the misdeeds of a few. Board member Becky Clark said it's the decision, responsibility and right of parents to direct their children's education.
Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell agreed.
"It would appear to me that the blame here really lies with the parents," Leitzell said. "Parents have a responsibility to be involved in the education of their children. School systems may fail some children, but generally the parents already have failed those same children."
The National Center for Education Statistics said the number of home-schooled students rose 74 percent, to 1.5 million, from 1999 to 2007. The National Home Education Research Institute estimates that 2 million were home-schooled last year.
Information from: Springfield News-Sun, http://www.springfieldnewssun.com