Online schools go after ‘cyber-truants’

Minnesota’s online schools are pursuing cyber-truants, reports AP.

Stacy Bender, dean of students at Minneapolis-based Minnesota Virtual High School, uses software that analyzes the time students spend on lessons and their progress, so slackers are identified and quick learners aren’t penalized. She runs a web site on fighting cyber-truancy.

When a Minnesota school considers a student habitually truant, it’s legally obligated to notify the authorities in the students’ home county — meaning an online school may work with all 87 Minnesota counties. The notification triggers a process that typically includes meetings between educators, county officials and the student’s family to write a court-approved plan to get the student back to school. Violators can be sentenced to community service or fined. In very rare cases, parents can lose custody of the child.

State truancy law was written to force students to show up at bricks-and-mortar schools and has to be “interpreted” to go after online students who stop doing the work. With online enrollment growing, Minnesota legislators are working on updating the law.