Ohio News Briefs

Online charter school loses state attendance audit appeal

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An appeal by Ohio’s largest online charter school of a ruling that allows the state to use the amount of time students are logged in to calculate enrollment and funding has been dismissed.

The Franklin County Court of Appeals 2-1 decision concerning the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT, lets stand for now a ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French.

French sided with the Ohio Department of Education in September when she rejected a request by ECOT to block the state from requiring the school provide log-in durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school.

The appellate court found French’s decision wasn’t a final ruling, and thus couldn’t be appealed, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

A message was left Wednesday evening for ECOT.

ECOT could not substantiate in a recent attendance audit that nearly 60 percent of full-time students were getting the minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required by the state. That means the state could ask the school to repay more than $60 million of the $106 million it received in state funding last year.

Eight other smaller online schools also weren’t able to justify their reported enrollment totals.

Education officials have said they found numerous incidents of students having weeks of inactivity, followed by a brief login period, and another extended period of inactivity, raising questions about how much schooling they are receiving.

ECOT also has filed an administrative appeal of the attendance audit with the Department of Education. That appeal is scheduled to be heard Dec. 5.

State lawmakers also are expected to consider the online school funding issue later this year or next year.

Ohio AG warns consumers against holiday scams

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorney General Mike DeWine is cautioning Ohioans to avoid holiday scams.

DeWine says con artists don’t take a break for the holidays.

He encouraged people to avoid acting on something that “doesn’t seem right” and to contact his consumer protection division with questions or concerns.

Seasonal scams can take various forms:

Job scams could appear to offer work in mystery shopping or package shipping positions that lure consumers into an online “interview” or chat.

Package delivery scams are tied to notices alerting the consumer a non-existent package or prize is ready for pick-up.

Advance-fee loan scammers offer fake online applications that require fee payment up front.

Online shopping scams ask for advance payment for offers they never deliver.

Charity scams involve solicitors misrepresenting a charity with vague or phony claims.

Vehicles returning to relatives of 8 slain family members

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s attorney general says dozens of cars, trucks and farming equipment have been investigated and will be returned to the relatives of eight family members who were slain earlier this year.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday the vehicles will be returned through Pike County Probate Court procedures. Three trailers and a camper where the slayings took place will remain stored.

The vehicles were towed in May after seven members of the Rhoden family and a fiancee were fatally shot on April 22. Many were killed in their sleep.

The Pike County Sheriff’s Office has spent more than $130,000 to break down, move and store evidence in the case that remains unsolved.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to a conviction.

Cleveland officer charged with misusing police database

CLEVELAND (AP) — A Cleveland policeman accused of misusing the statewide law enforcement database to benefit his private security business has been indicted on 53 counts, including charges of unauthorized use of the database, theft and tax fraud.

Cleveland.com reports prosecutors allege 44-year-old Theodore Perez and his sister illegally used the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway database for unauthorized background checks from the company.

Calls Wednesday to Perez’s attorney went unanswered, and his office wasn’t accepting messages.

Perez was charged initially after an internal investigation by Cleveland police, and he’s been suspended without pay. He’s also accused of failing to pay $113,000 in sales taxes for his business and operating it after his vendor’s license was suspended.

His sister is charged with illegally accessing the database.

They are scheduled for arraignment Dec. 7.

Chinese lantern festival coming to Ohio’s capital city

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A lantern festival with 38 life-size displays and more than 15,000 LED lights will bring some Chinese culture to Ohio’s capital city for nearly six weeks.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival begins on Friday evening at the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio Expo Center. The event runs through Jan. 2.

The festival will feature every animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar, including a dragon that’s longer than six school buses.

Organizers say colored flowers and toadstools will be at the event, along with games, food, and performances including martial arts, jar-balancing and face-changing.

Lanterns are traditionally lit on the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration in order to gain favor with the gods and yield a good harvest.