Child found locked in closet used to be in classroom

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It is unknown how long a 10-year-old Kansas City girl was kept in a closet, but six years ago she had classmates and a teacher. In 2006, she was enrolled in Kindergarten at Woodland Elementary. Her school records stop the next year.

How can a child disappear?

"It is that easy," said Cedric Workcuff, snapping his fingers.

The 20-year-old just got his high school diploma from Hope Academy and is heading into the Army. He's excited for the discipline and the chance to continue to be a musician.

He also remembers how easy it was for him to skip school.

"I can say that I let myself slip away one time and I wasn't here for about a month or two," he said. "And if it wasn't for my brother telling me 'You need to get your education,' not to mention my parents, but it was my teachers," he added about the few that called to check on him.

No one called to check on Rebecca Fletcher when she left eighth grade.

"Actually no," she said. "My mother called up there."

Her mother had pulled her out for home schooling. When her mother passed away last year, Rebecca came to Hope Academy, too. Now she wants to become a nurse just like the nurses who cared for her terminally ill mother.

But she knows there are several other students who could easily disappear from school.

"They just give up, they're not encouraged," she said.

Kansas City Public Schools have been cracking down on truancy and in response to a recent change in the way data is collected, officials say the district has started to track students leaving the district.

A representative from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says five years ago, data collecting began to include the exit status of students from all grades in a district. Previously, only drop outs from grades 7-12 were collected.

KCPS efforts since this change have dramatically affected their drop out rates. With drop out recovery efforts and tracking students, district officials say they have since removed 786 students from their drop out list. 

When the little girl locked in a closet was enrolled in Kindergarten, this new data collection wasn't in place.

The Compulsory Age Attendance Law mandates students ages 7 through 17 be in school.

In 2006, the little girl found in a closet was just five years old. Even if she had been 7 years old, it is her parent or guardian according to the law who is responsible for making sure she attends regularly.

Otherwise, the parent or guardian may be reported to the department of social services. Six years later, her mother was.

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