Woman accused of pretending to be a homeless teenager to enroll in high school

Michaelann Goodrich told the school her name was Riley Madison and that she was 15, police said.

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By Minyvonne Burke

A New York woman in her 30s was arrested for pretending to be a homeless teenager so she could enroll in a Greene County high school — even though she already has a high school diploma, police and school district officials said.

Michaelann Goodrich allegedly told administrators at Cairo-Durham High School that she was a 15-year-old girl named Riley Madison, district superintendent Anthony Taibi told NBC News.

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, which states that homeless children and youth cannot be denied education, the school was required to immediately enroll Goodrich in classes when she enrolled on Dec. 19.

Michaelann Goodrich, 32, was arrested after trying to enroll in high school classes while pretending to be a 15-year-old homeless teen in Cairo, New York.Greene County Sherrif's Office

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Taibi, however, said officials at the school noticed “red flags” in Goodrich’s story and asked the police to get involved.

“There was enough in her story that caused some concern,” he said.

Goodrich was able to attend one day of classes on Dec. 20, according to Taibi. She did not show up for class on Dec. 21, telling the school that she had an appointment, Taibi said.

By then, authorities had already started investigating.

"She could've gone in numerous different ways to obtain a degree,” Greene County Sheriff Senior Investigator Joel Rowell told NBC-affiliate WNYT, adding that during the investigation they learned Goodrich already had a diploma.

“That just leads to our investigation to try to figure out what exactly her motive was for attending school."

Taibi said the incident highlights “a vulnerability in the McKinney-Vento Act.”

“That needs to be looked into,” he said.

Goodrich was arrested on Dec. 28 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, falsifying business records and criminal trespassing, according to WNYT.

A call to the Greene County Sheriff's Office for comment was not immediately returned.