“While this weekend’s football game brought concerns about the health and safety of players, it also raised red flags about the school’s operations,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement.
He directed the Ohio Department of Education to “conduct an investigation into Bishop Sycamore to ensure compliance with Ohio law and to ensure the school is providing the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve.”
But how much authority, if any, state education officials have over this particular kind of private school remains unclear.
What is Bishop Sycamore?
Bishop Sycamore is one of 401 registered non-chartered, non-public schools in Ohio.
These schools, which supporters have nicknamed “08’s,” are religious schools that have chosen not to seek accreditation from the State Board of Education for one reason or another.
They don’t get public education dollars, but they also don’t have to follow the same rules as public or charted private schools.
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Ohio Revised Code only requires non-charter, non-publics to file annual reports outlining how they meet minimum education standards like hours of instruction, courses of study and teacher qualifications.
“The vast majority of these are legitimate places,” said Aaron Baer, a school choice advocate who runs the Center for Christian Virtue. But they run the gamut from homeschool cooperatives to full-blown private institutions.
Why is Ohio Gov. DeWine calling for an investigation into Bishop Sycamore?
Bishop Sycamore’s 2020-2021 report to the state education department described the school as “one of the best academic institutions in the country” that “provides an avenue for underprivileged students to excel in academics and athletics.”
But all that came into question after its football team played a televised game against IMG Academy of Florida. Bishop Sycamore lost 0-58, and the team’s performance quickly raised questions about whether it was the elite program it claimed to be.
Then, came questions about its academic credentials.
Where is Bishop Sycamore high school located?
The online school claims to be based in Columbus, but the address it gave the state was for Phillips Hall, a combined library and learning space that belongs to Franklin University.
And as of Tuesday evening, all information about the school had been deleted from its website.
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The father of a former student-athlete gave a scathing interview to Awful Announcing about his son’s experience with the school, claiming the kids lacked equipment, training facilities and sometimes even food.
Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.