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Reason Foundation

Truant Ghost Children

Lisa Snell
February 21, 2005, 3:51pm

Thanks to the Education Intelligence Agency for this one: The attendance officer at Philadelphia's Martin Luther King High School was concerned about the chronic truancy of James Dowling's daughter. Dowling would sometimes receive up to five calls a week from the school, asking him why his daughter was missing school. Officials at a Philadelphia elementary school were also calling Nancy L. Springer McAninley about her two children. One time, the school nurse called to ask McAninley to come to the school because one of her children was running a high fever. But neither Dowling nor McAninley have children. Any children. Never mind children enrolled in Philadelphia schools. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jill Porter found these two baffled citizens, victims of a district bureaucracy and an automated phoning system with incorrect numbers keyed in. Porter called the district and -- in the finest tradition of school district spokesmen -- district spokesman Joe Lyons tried to turn the screw-up into a holy virtue. "We have a kid that's not coming to school," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to find the kid and get the interventions she needs. That's ultimately what we're in business for, to benefit the kids." Dowling and McAninley received misdirected calls for two years. It's pretty ballsy to claim it was a measure of dedicated public service.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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