COMMENTARY | Another child fell through the cracks in Ohio. Finger-pointing between the Ohio Department of Education and the Dayton Public School District will likely continue for months as law enforcement officials sort out the facts in the death of a special-needs home-schooled teenager.
Attorney General Mike DeWine feels a hearing should be held to determine how the process broke down in the neglect case of Makayla Norman, according to the Associated Press. The girl weighed 28 pounds at the time of her death. Norman's three nurses and mother have been indicted on criminal neglect charges relating to her death.
DeWine is correct in calling for accountability from the school district for "losing track" of the physically disabled teenager. Norma was registered as a home-school student when she was 5, but the family did not file annual academic assessments as required by state law.
The school, the Ohio Department of Education and all other social services agencies involved in her care miserably failed to protect this child. The blame falls on the shoulders of the mother and her daily caregivers who watched Norman waste away, but the abuse and neglect would have been thwarted if the involved Ohio public agencies had done their jobs.
Ohio Department of Education representative Patrick Gallaway told the Associated Press that 22,000 Ohio children are home-schooled, yet "hundreds" of children as "missing" from the count. The ODE records indicate the Columbus City School District has zero children enrolled in home-school programs, the AP reports.
A school representative interviewed by the news organization said there are 477 children from the district registered as home-schoolers this year. The Columbus district is one of the largest in the state. Are these children learning? Are they safe? Where is the state funding allotment for these students going? The average southern Ohio school garners approximately $8,900 per pupil from taxpayer funded state and federal education programs.
There are many benefits of a home-school or online charter school education. National Home Education Research Institute statistics published by the AP reveal 2 million American students were home-schooled this year. The issues that led to Norman's tragic death stem not from a legitimate education alternative, but from a system-wide failure exacerbated by the neglect of the girl's mother and caregivers.