Clark and Champaign County school district officials say not much will change about their current student absence notification system, despite a new state law that went into effect Friday.
The law requires Ohio schools to notify parents within 120 minutes of the start of the school day if their child is absent. Districts can notify parents by several means, including a phone call, text or email.
Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel said the law won’t change much for how the his district conducts absence notification.
“We have an automated dialing system that sends calls home when children are absent,” Thiel said. “We’ve had this system in place for about nine or 10 years.”
Thiel said the only difference in the current system is that the district will now focus on making calls within the required time frame.
“We have been tracking our calls since the beginning of the year in order to get used to the 120 minutes and we have maybe missed the mark one or two days total,” Thiel said. “So now we are focused on making sure we are hitting that mark every day.”
Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent Paula Crew said her district has also had a system in place since the start of the 2018/2019 school year.
“Our system will send an automated call to parents within 90 minutes of the school day,” Crew said. “In fact, most of the time it’s 60 minutes.”
Crew said she thinks the law “is a good one.”
“This is a good one, it’s a good law. It’s what’s best of students,” Crew said.
Crew referenced 14-year-old Alianna Defreeze, for which the new legislation is named, as reason to why the law is necessary.
Alianna was abducted from her bus stop in Cleveland in January of 2017, taken to an abandoned home, sexually assaulted, tortured and killed.
Alianna’s parents did not know she was missing until the end of the school day.
The bill was passed and signed last year by former Gov. John Kasich and “Alianna’s law” went into effect on Friday. Gov. Mike DeWine, who was Ohio Attorney General at the time testified in support of the bill.
DeWine said then that there were more than 600 children in his office’s online missing children database.
Aliann’s parents also testified in support of the bill in 2018, her mother Donnesha Cooper said she called the school 10 hours after the start of the school day because she had a parent teacher conference that day and wanted to see if her daughter was waiting for her there. She was told her daughter never signed in.
“I was notified that my child had not been in school the whole day,” Cooper said. “The situation that I am going through happens all too often and many other families have felt my pain.”
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, children are most likely to be the victim of abduction when they are walking to and from school or school-related events.