I-Team: Homeschool family gets grade card from school they don’t attend

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:26 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Getting a report card that says your child shows a “positive attitude” and “initiative” is something every parent wants.

An Ottawa County family was feeling good when they read those glowing words about their son. But there’s a catch, because he never attended the school in question. In fact, their other child didn’t attend either but also received satisfactory marks.

So how could this happen? Turns out it was a combination of issues.

The living room is not a traditional classroom, but it is school for the Halsey kids. They’re homeschooled and this school year they’re doing it in the Genoa Local Schools District. The kids recently received interim grade reports. Oddly, those reports came from Toledo.

“I almost didn’t open them. I did and then at first I was like, Well, this is weird, and then the more I thought about it I was like, Well, this is pretty sketchy,” said Melody Rushlow, the kids’ mother.

This family used to live in Toledo, specifically within Arlington Elementary’s boundary. Each year they’d notify Toledo Public Schools of their intent to homeschool without issue. TPS always accepted the curriculum and approved it.

They moved to Genoa this year and got similar approval from Genoa Schools. In late September that unexpected Arlington Elementary interim grade report arrived with actual grades like a “satisfactory” for Gabriel in math. Same for Cayla in music and art. These kids moved so they never attended Arlington this year.

“I was just dumbfounded. I didn’t know how it could have slipped through the cracks so to speak,” said Rushlow.

As if grades for kids never in that classroom weren’t bad enough, Gabriel’s report contains comments on his class effort. His math teacher remarks “displays positive attitude” and “showing improvement.” In science, that same teacher says “shows interest and initiative.” Gabriel has never met this teacher, leading Rushlow to wonder who’s actually writing these comments.

“If the teacher herself did that then I’m kinda wondering how she knows any of the kids in her class if she’s paying close attention to any of them because this child doesn’t exist to her,” said Rushlow.

13abc asked TPS how this could happen. A spokeswoman told the I-Team it’s a combination of things. When the family left Toledo, TPS says it was not notified officially the kids were gone, even though Genoa acknowledged having them. TPS did not have them listed as homeschooling and they were assigned a building and classroom.

The big question: How did Gabriel get those personalized comments when he wasn’t there?

That district spokeswoman says there’s another kid in that class with the same first name and the teacher got them mixed up.

TPS did note their unexcused absences, Gabriel listed with 16 and Cayla with 13 which is also strange because they’re twins and in the same grade.

TPS officials say they had no phone number on file to call parents about the absences, sent letters that were returned with no forwarding address, and sent a staff member to the now-former Toledo home but didn’t find the family.

Somehow though, the interim grade report did get forwarded in the mail to Genoa. Now, this mom wants to make sure her kids aren’t being counted toward state money coming to TPS.

“I’m feeling like my children were being used for a purpose I might not want them to be. It feels like fraud and I just wasn’t willing to have them be a part of that,” said Rushlow.

TPS says it self-reported the incident to the Department of Education and retrained these teachers on interim grade cards which are not actual report cards according to the district.

State money comes to districts based on enrollment. A Department of Education spokeswoman says schools have started submitting data but have until December 20 to finalize it.

Rushlow still has her concerns but says this hasn’t affected the kids’ actual work.

“I’m worried this is happening on a larger scale and that it’s just unknown,” said Rushlow.

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