EXCLUSIVE: Diploma Dilemma

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

ROCHELLE (WIFR) -- A now shuttered live-in school for children with behavioral problems is causing problems for former students well into adulthood. A 23 News investigation has learned "The Mill" failed to keep good records and that's hampering at least one dad's efforts to get a good job.

“I didn't think I was going to graduate."

The teenaged years were such a struggle for Josh Anderson, earning a high school diploma was his ticket out of trouble.

"I've got a diploma, I've got honor roll stuff up there a tassel, I've got pictures I was under the assumption I graduated," he says.

You'd think the mementos are enough. Even the Regional Superintendent of Education signed Josh's diploma, stating he graduated from The Mill in 1999. There's just one problem, one big problem.

"We can't find any records anywhere. Rockford would be the home school for The Mill and they have no records, they've gone by name and by birthdate and they have no records on that person," says Dr. Lori Fanello Regional Superintendent of Education.

No records, no job. Josh recently found out his school records were missing when he says his application process was halted at rail car manufacturer Nippon Sharyo in Rochelle.

"My plan was to go from construction where there's no 401k, there's no retirement unless you can save which is very hard with big families, to go to a solid employment like Nippon with a future," he says.

"It's just hurtful to see something like that, they won't take his diploma as a real diploma. I mean I watched him graduate," says Josh’s mom, Diane Pickreign.

Since The Mill closed in 2007, there's no one from The Mill to hold accountable. So unless you want to prove your diploma wasn't printed off the internet, it's recommended to get a copy of your school records.

The concen is greater for students like Josh that bounced around schools. School districts only hold onto temporary records until the year the student turns 26. So if you attend a temporary school like The Mill, those records will be tossed. Districts hold onto students' permanent records for 60 years after graduation.

There's a happy ending to this situation. Josh was very persistant and the Rochelle School District, where Josh initially attended school, spent a lot of time digging around and eventually pieced together enough of his records to prove his educational background. The Superintendent even personally called Nippon Sharyo to let them know what happened. And Josh says because of these efforts, he's now back in the interview process.


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