CAIRO, N.Y. — School officials in New York state became suspicious when a 15-year-old girl who claimed to be homeless sought enrollment at Cairo-Durham High School.
Though she was allowed to enroll in accordance with federal law, the girl calling herself Riley Madison attended just one day of classes before district officials learned the truth -- the teen was actually a 32-year-old Cairo woman named Michaelann Goodrich.
"The Cairo-Durham School District, in which Ms. Goodrich sought to enroll, followed appropriate procedures and contacted local authorities to investigate," according to a news release from the Greene County Sheriff's Office. "(Investigators) conducted an investigation which was diligently concluded before the end of the local schools' winter vacation."
Goodrich was arrested Dec. 28 and charged with first-degree offering false instrument for filing and first-degree falsifying business records, both Class E felonies in New York. She was also charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing, Sheriff's Office officials said.
She was booked into the Green County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond.
WNYT in Albany reported that Goodrich attended classes Dec. 20, riding a school bus to and from the high school. She was absent the following day and classes were dismissed Dec. 22 for the winter break.
Anthony Taibi, superintendent of the Cairo-Durham Central School District, said administrators felt early on that something was amiss.
"When the individual attempted to enroll in December, the district immediately contacted law enforcement to investigate after some red flags were raised," Taibi said in a statement posted to the district's website. "Based on the federal McKinney-Vento Act and the individual's identification as a homeless student, she was entitled to immediate enrollment.
“The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal regulation that requires schools to provide homeless students with the right to enroll in public school immediately, even if lacking the documents normally required for enrollment (e.g., immunization records, residency, academic records). Under this act, a student can enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers the needed documents.”
It was during that process that doubts were raised, the statement read.
"We want to stress that the individual was on campus for only one day and was continually under the supervision of district staff," Taibi said. "Students who may have had contact with the individual have already been interviewed."
The superintendent's statement said district officials are reviewing enrollment procedures under McKinney-Vento and continue to cooperate with the Sheriff's Office's investigation.
Joel Rowell, a senior investigator with the Sheriff's Office, told WNYT investigators are still trying to determine why Goodrich enrolled herself in high school -- and whether or not she's done it in other school districts.
"She could've gone in numerous different ways to obtain a degree, and we actually found out through the investigation that she has a high school diploma," Rowell told the news station. "So that just leads to our investigation to try to figure out what exactly her motive was for attending school."
Cox Media Group