Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine directs education department to investigate Bishop Sycamore

·2 min read

Ohio's governor wants to know more about Bishop Sycamore, a private high school at the center of a football scandal that has garnered national attention.

“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.

Massillon's Austin Brawley (4) takes out the legs of Bishop Sycamore's Daivon Lowman during a September 2020 game.
Massillon's Austin Brawley (4) takes out the legs of Bishop Sycamore's Daivon Lowman during a September 2020 game.

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They don't get public education dollars, but they also don't have to follow the same rules as public or charted private schools.

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 gambit from homeschool cooperatives to full-blown private institutions.

Why is Ohio Gov. DeWine calling for an investigation?

Bishop Sycamore's 2020-21 report to the 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."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

But all that came into question after its football team played a televised game against IMG Academy of Florida. Bishop Sycamore lost 58-0, 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.

The online school claims to be based in Columbus, but the address it gave the education department was for Phillips Hall, a combined library, learning space that belongs to Franklin University.

And as of late Tuesday afternoon, all information about the school had been deleted from its website.

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.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Bishop Sycamore: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine requests investigation