Hundreds of chrome books lost, missing or stolen from area schools during pandemic

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 4:10 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - They were a lifeline at the height of the pandemic. Chrome books allowed students to continue to learn when the coronavirus kept them out of the classroom but as things with the virus calm down, the 9News Investigators have learned hundreds of those devices paid for with taxpayer money have been lost, are missing or reported stolen in area school districts.

Krista Jackson says it was quite a challenge to juggle school smack dab in the middle of the pandemic but her little man conquered the first grade even with all the changes. Part of what made the virtual classes easier was the free chrome books that were given out to students. Jackson admits part of the challenge at her house was making sure it was returned to the school exactly the way they got it.

“It was a nervous start for us to say the least,” said Jackson. “We had a specific backpack and an area that we kept it or whatever. He wasn’t able to use it for anything else. He had his own tablet for home and he wasn’t using it for anything but for school.”

Not everyone kept such good care of their chrome books. Hundreds of those devices doled out during the pandemic are now gone.

“No it doesn’t surprise me,” said Jackson.

East Baton Rouge Schools gave out more than 35,000 chrome books to students and now 328 of them are lost or reported stolen. In Ascension, out of the 24,000 devices that were given out there, 10 were reported lost and four have been recovered. In Central, 46 chrome books are unaccounted for in the district and in Livingston, out of the 4,000 devices they loaned out, 188 have not yet been returned.

“I think it makes it bad for all of the people who did what they were supposed to do to keep up with the tablets,” said Jackson.

Many schools used federal CARES Act money to make sure every student had a device to take home and now that hundreds of them have not been given back, Jackson says it’s not just on the school. She believes the responsibility begins and ends at home.

“As parents, I think we have to have the responsibility to keep up with this equipment because it’s not ours,” said Jackson.

Because they had the most missing devices, WAFB asked the folks at EBR schools about what they’re doing to get them back. No one was available for an interview but they provided the following statement.

“The district’s policy on theft is for the family to submit a police report and provide that to their individual school. Our department does not act in a punitive manner toward any student for theft, loss, or damages (whether willful or accidental). Discipline policies are handled by the schools. Chromebooks are distributed to students in the same manner as textbooks and follow much the same consequences for losses or damages. With our district at a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students, and with the unprecedented COVID year and its problems, a greater degree of forgiveness has been offered to our families.”

With hundreds of these devices lost, missing or stolen and with the new school year right around the corner the parent we spoke with is calling on other parents to do the right thing.

“Do a search to find out where they are. If they’re in your child’s room or wherever they are, see if you can find them and turn them back in to the school because it’s the school’s property. It belongs to the parish,” said Jackson.

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