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Guarding Against Abuse, Neglect

Teachers are much more than simply conveyors of knowledge. For some students they are vital protectors. That instinct does not change, even for teachers whose classrooms are of the virtual variety.

And just as teachers in traditional classrooms find themselves increasingly serving as lifelines for at-risk students, one teacher administering an online test to a home-schooled girl in Ohio earlier this year may have saved the life of one student.

The teacher noticed the 11-year-old girl was having trouble concentrating, and asked what was wrong. The girl said she was hungry and only allowed to eat a small plate of rice a day. The teacher immediately alerted the authorities, who found the girl wearing a diaper and weighing approximately 30 pounds less than the average weight for a girl her age, being kept isolated in a locked trailer, forced to sleep on a urine-stained mattress and being monitored by a security camera.

Her legal custodian, a 47-year-old woman in Georgetown, Ohio, has been jailed.

Among the more disturbing parts of the story is that the woman was married. There were other children in the home. Personnel in the doctor’s office where the malnourished girl had last been examined — when she was 8 — appears not have had any alarm bells go off when they did not see the child for three years.

Investigators are checking whether there are other suspects, or anyone else who could have helped the girl and didn’t. Bless the teacher who did help.

The overwhelming majority of parents and guardians who home-school children do so with the very best of intentions. A few may be trying to hide something. In both our states, if safeguards against that are not in place, they should be.

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