Seminole County teacher Amy Capelle had to make a decision.
Her supervisor at the nations largest online school, K12, asked her to sign a roster saying shed taught 112 kids.
Shed only taught seven.
If you see your name next to a student that might not be yours, its because you are qualified to teach that subject, and we needed to put your name there, wrote K12 supervisor Samantha Gilormini in an e-mail.
Capelle refused, and now state officials are investigating whether K12 used improperly certified teachers and asked employees to cover it up.
Seminole County officials say this problem may reach far beyond their borders.
But many Florida school districts have no way to know whether K12 students are actually being taught by properly certified teachers, according to a review by StateImpact Florida and Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
Seminole County school officials took a series of unusual steps to check if K12 was being honest about who was teaching its students.
They asked K12 teachers to sign rosters of their students. And they followed up with a survey of K12 parents. Just one in three parents said the teacher listed actually taught their child.
Most Florida districts dont take those precautions -- and several contacted by StateImpact Florida/FCIR said they had no plans to do so.
Both Hillsborough and Pinellas county school districts said all online teachers undergo standard human resources checks. Those steps include fingerprinting, a background investigation and providing proof of all teaching certifications.
Neither district has ever done a follow-up survey, such as the one Seminole County schools conducted to identify problems with K12.
Meanwhile, school officials in Brevard and Volusia counties say they are asking parents to verify their childs K12 teacher.
K12 officials say they always use state-certified teachers, but an internal review found minor mistakes in matching a teachers grade and course certifications to students.
K12 founder and CEO Ron Packard called the conclusions of the Seminole County schools investigation an unbelievable amount of rumor-mongering and absurd extrapolations in a conference call Thursday.
All teachers teaching Seminole County students were Florida-certified, he said In our internal review we have only identified minor mistakes in matching the appropriate grade and course certifications with specific students in courses.
"Why would we have ever hired teachers that werent certified? We have tens of applicants for every job."
The use of online education is developing faster than the policy regulating it, said education experts.
Most states require online teachers are certified, said Michael K. Barbour, an assistant professor at Wayne State University and Susan Patrick, president of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. But both Barbour and Patrick said few states require the teacher to be certified in the state where the student is located.
So an instructor in one state could teach a student in another.
Pennsylvania and Ohio allow some online teachers without certification, but researchers said its unclear how many other states do.
Luis Huerta, a researcher at Teachers College at Columbia University, said the federal No Child Left Behind law increased certification requirements for all educators a decade ago. But since then the move has been away from certifications as for-profit companies, such as K12, seek fewer regulations.