How soon should schools contact parents if their kid isn't in class?

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If your child doesn't make it off the school bus to class, how much time should pass before the school notifies you?

In Ohio, school districts aren't held to a specific time to alert parents of an absence. State Lawmaker Sandra Williams is working to change that.

"Each and everyone one of us should want to know if our child who is going to school alone makes it there safely, " Senator Sandra Williams (D-21st District) said.

Last year, 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze of Cleveland was headed to school. She got off an RTA bus and never made it to class.

Police say a man on the same bus, Christopher Whitaker, abducted, raped and killed her. He's now on trial for the crime.

Defreeze's parents say they never knew she hadn't made it to school until her mother called the school about an unrelated matter.

"She's on the bus at 6 in the morning and here is it 4:30 in the evening and her mom and dad are just finding out that she didn't make it to school," Sen. Williams said.

That's why Sen. Williams created the "Alianna Alert." If it becomes law, schools would have to alert parents, by phone, email, or text within a certain time if they are absent.

Originally, this bill required school districts to notify parents within 60 minutes of the start of school, but that didn't work, so a compromise was reached to 120 minutes from the start of school.

That doesn't sit well with parents we spoke too.

"I don't think that is soon enough if my 8-year-old is out there on the street because he didn't make it to school that's not soon enough," Kristina Rose of Powell said.

"That's too long, that's too long once you take attendance you know the child isn't there you should notify the parents," Joe Henry of Columbus said.

Sen. Williams says she tried to make districts respond sooner.

"There was a lot of pushback from the school board association. A lot of districts say they don't have the personnel [or] the technology to actually adhere to this rule," she said.

If the law passes, it would take effect next school year.

Senate Bill 82 lacks any penalties if school districts don't call within 120 minutes, nor does it provide hold schools liable if they don't call within that time frame. Sen. Williams says she plans to add penalties if the bill becomes law.

On Wednesday, proponents and opponents will be able to voice their concerns before a Senate committee votes.

Local School Alert Times

  • Columbus City Schools says it notifies at the end of the day
  • Hilliard Brown Elementary says it sends notification between 10 and 10:30 a.m. after school starts at 8:50 a.m.
  • Grandview says it sends out notifications within the first hour after school starts at 8 a.m.
  • Near Cleveland, Aurora City school say they notify immediately after attendance after 7:45 a.m.
  • Columbus Preparatory says it calls at 10 a.m., two hours after school starts