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Online teacher right to alert the authorities

Teachers are much more than simply conveyors of knowledge. For many students they truly do serve as guardian, parental figures. 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 a lifeline for incredibly at-risk students, one teacher administering an online test in Ohio earlier this year probably saved the life of one student.

The teacher noticed an 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 named Margaret Breeze, of Georgetown, has been jailed on multiple charges.

But among the more disturbing parts of the story is that Breeze was married. There were other children in the home.

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. (She had lost four pounds in the time since that visit.)

Investigators are rightly looking in to whether there are other suspects, or anyone else who could have helped the girl and didn’t. It took someone with the heart of a teacher to, despite knowing of the girl only because she was taking an online test, understand something was wrong and have the will to alert someone who could help. Thank goodness.

Cases like this one highlight some of the dangers of homeschooling, when parents or guardians do not want their children under the watchful eye of teachers who care.

If there are not already safeguards in place to allow the authorities to check in on homeschooled children who have not been seen in person by anyone but their families after a certain period of time, lawmakers should consider implementing them at once.

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