senior scribes
text

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Schools must call parents if kids are absent, says bill after Alianna DeFreeze killing
By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Schools across Ohio would have to call parents right away if kids are not in class each morning under a new bill that would make these so-called "Alianna Alerts" mandatory.

State Sen. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, Williams told the Senate Education Committee this week that her bill is in response to the murder of Alianna DeFreeze. The 14-year-old Cleveland girl had boarded an RTA bus on January 26 to head to her charter school, but never made it.

She was found dead four days later in an abandoned building.

Her family did not find out that she did not make it to school until late afternoon that day, delaying any search.

Williams' bill would require schools to make at least one attempt to call parents within 60 minutes of the start of school if a child is absent and parents have not already notified the schools.

"It is imperative that parents be notified immediately if their child is absent from school," Williams said. "In a missing persons case, every hour is vital."

Williams said data collected by the Ohio Attorney General's office shows that parents reported nearly 19,000 children missing in 2015. Though 97 percent were found unharmed, four were killed and 563 were never found.

Districts, she said, have very different policies about notifying parents of absences. Some call parents that morning, some notify parents each week and some by month.

Bay Village is among the most aggressive, with a longtime policy of calling parents  at work, at home or on a cell phone right away each morning.

"We take children's safety very seriously," say Sean McAndrews, principal of Bay Middle School. "We don't ever want to be in a case where we don't tell a parent and something happened to them on the way to school."

Bay Village even goes a step further. If the school can't reach the parents, it calls the police department, which then visits the house, just as it would for welfare checks on sick or elderly residents.

Those visits have not uncovered serious issues, beyond an occasional truant, so far.

"We find kids at home all the time because they're sick and parents forget to call," said Officer Darren Ingham.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, the Kettering Republican who chairs the Education Committee, is co-sponsoring the bill. It also received favorable response from other committee members, who praised the concept and had questions only about details of how it would work.

Williams' bill does not require schools to go as far as Bay Village if parents do not respond to a call. State Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Cincinnati Democrat, wondered if the state should require additional steps. Lehner agreed.

"I don't really see a downside to following up a little further," she said.

State Sen. Gayle Manning, a North Ridgeville Republican, wanted to be sure that an hour is enough time for schools to take attendance at multiple classrooms, get the information to the office and still have time for calls.

Williams said she believes schools can do that work, though many employees may not want that hassle. She and Lehner encouraged districts to give feedback on the feasibility of that timing.

It is also unclear whether automated calls will be allowed. The bill requires a person to call, though Williams said at the hearing that automated calls would make the calls less unwieldy.

Automated calls were at the center of the DeFreeze case. The girl's school, E Prep Woodland Hills, has a system to notify parents within two hours if a student is not at school. But school officials say that system was not working properly that day, so the girl's parents never received a message.

Read this and other articles at The Cleveland Plain Dealer


 
senior scribes

County News Online

is a Fundraiser for the Senior Scribes Scholarship Committee. All net profits go into a fund for Darke County Senior Scholarships
contact
Copyright 2011 and design by cigs.kometweb.com