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Anime story gets student in trouble

HEBRON – Paying homage to Japanese anime story landed a Lakewood Middle School student in hot water.

Licking County Sheriff Captain Chris Slayman was called to Lakewood Middle School after a teacher discovered a student’s “Death List” containing several names. The list is based on the “Death Note” amime, or animated serial.

According to a press release from Lakewood Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews, “The Lakewood Middle School administration discovered a book called ‘Death Note’ on March 14, 2016 with names of students inside.

“After identifying who the notebook belonged to, the student revealed that it was a prop as part of a costume for ‘Fandom Day,’ a spirit day related to the ‘Pennies for Patients’ school fundraising effort to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The student was dressed as ‘Light,’ the main character from the Japanese anime series, ‘Death Note.’ In this series, Light discovers a supernatural notebook that he uses to rid the world of evil.”

The press release continues, “We did not find any evidence that the student had intended to harm students or that there were any plans beyond placing the students’ names on the list. The administration conducted a threat assessment in cooperation with local law enforcement authorities.

“We will not release any information about the student, but will say that we took appropriate action.

“The safety of our students is our primary concern and we are working with parents to answer their questions. We need parents to be aware of the content of the cartoon and to help us remind students of what is appropriate and what isn’t in a school setting,” the press release states.

According to a Licking County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the offense was “inducing panic.”

In the “Death Note” animated series, Light rids the world of evil people by writing their names in a book along with a means of fate. In time, those listed in the book would die by the fate listed. The police report states teachers found the student’s book and identified its owner through handwriting samples. The student was called to the office, where the student admitted to writing the names, but denied wanting to harm any one in any way.

According to the incident report from Deputy Donald Keene, the student received a three-day in school suspension and the listed students’ parents were notified.

According to the Anime News Network, there have been roughly 10 previous incidents in the United States where “Death Notes” related activities led to students being disciplined.

In other district news, Andrews announced the Lakewood School District would end its sponsorship of Lakewood Digital Academy. In a press release issued Wednesday, Andrews was clear the move was not related to the attention the digital academy garnered after being forced to repay $150,000 to the Ohio Department of Education because of a discrepancy in enrollment.

According to the release, “The Lakewood Local School District approved at a Special Meeting held March 22, 2016 to end the sponsorship agreement with the Lakewood Digital Academy.”

Andrews said, “This decision has been a tough one. We have been reviewing for months the new legislative requirements for digital schools and believe it’s in Lakewood Local’s and the students’ best interest to end the sponsorship contract. This action is in no way a result of the local media attention to the repayment of funds to the Ohio Department of Education.”

According to the release, the Lakewood Local School District will notify parents of students currently enrolled and work to provide educational options within the Lakewood Local School District that can meet the specialized educational needs of their children.

Linda Nicodemus, president of the Lakewood Digital Academy Board of Directors said, “The goal of the Lakewood Digital Board has been to give our students an alternative education. We have given families a flexible opportunity to educate their children and be able to meet the state requirements and allow students to earn a diploma. We understand the new legislative requirements have made continuing the digital academy difficult.”

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, the academy enrolled over 100 students. Midway through the school year, in February 2015, the board was notified that the manner in which the academy had historically tracked student participation no longer satisfied changed requirements. The Ohio Department of Education determined, based on the new requirements, that the academy had been over-funded and began reducing payments to the academy.

Based on the outcome of ODE’s February 2015 review, the academy was restructured for the 2015-2016 school year. Among other changes, the academy eliminated its blended programming and all students are now educated solely by computer. Due to this limitation, the academy was no longer able to serve the diverse student population it once did, and enrollment has dropped considerably.

As a result of the changing legal requirements applicable to the academy, and the consequent reduction in the academy’s enrollment, funding, and programming, the academy no longer serves the purposes the parties intended when entering into a contract with the academy and the economic viability of the academy is in question.

Lakewood School Board President Judy White said, “We thank the members of our community who have served on the Lakewood Digital Academy Board of Directors. They served our community and students well by providing a viable educational option to earn a high school diploma. Moving forward, it is our goal to serve the students and see them earn a diploma from Lakewood Local.”

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