Schools boost efforts to ID fake student addresses

In a Pennsylvania case, Latoni Crowder used a cousin’s address to ensure her eighth-grader could continue at Central Dauphin East Middle School in central Pennsylvania. Crowder had lost her job at a nursing home and, unable to afford her apartment rent, moved to a cheaper place in the underachieving Harrisburg district.

“Like any parent, I was just looking out for my daughter,” said Crowder, 40, one of three Harrisburg residents prosecuted and convicted in November for false enrollment in the better-performing Central Dauphin schools. “I just didn’t want her to fall behind and not get a good education.”

A judge gave her a year to pay $1,359 restitution to Central Dauphin for tuition. Her daughter has now adjusted well in Harrisburg, Crowder said.

In California, the San Francisco Unified School District started cracking down on residency fraud about a year ago. The schools allow residents to apply to any campus in the district.

With help from anonymous tips, investigators identified about 300 students whose use of false addresses potentially displaced residents trying to get into San Francisco’s most sought-after schools. Offenders had to withdraw and pay $2,500 to $5,000 to reimburse investigative costs. The district chose not to prosecute.

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“The board had a strong suspicion over the years that there were families using fake addresses to gain access to our schools,” said Arcadio Fokin, director of the district’s educational placement center.

About 300 other nonresident families came forward in November after the district offered amnesty to those who had falsified residency information, and those students were allowed to finish the semester at their SFUSD school, officials said.

In Georgia, Houston County superintendent Robin Hines said he decided to get tough in 2009 after hearing of parents lying on address affidavits to get their children into his 26,000-student district. The district, about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta, has high test scores and does well on federal benchmarks, he said.

Working with the county district attorney’s office, the district gave families two weeks to withdraw or face criminal charges.

Hines said 130 families left immediately. About 25 indictments were returned on charges of falsifying documents, charges that were dismissed after families agreed to pay fines–ranging from $300 to $18,000, to make up for local tax dollars used.

“We are a highly attractive district and people want to go here,” Hines said. “At the root of it all was people who wanted the best for their children, but to falsify records and have children lying, it was not a good situation.”

Williams-Bolar could be forced to pay Copley-Fairlawn $30,000 for tuition. Her felony conviction could threaten her current license to work as an aide with special-needs students–and the teaching license she’s pursuing in college.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has asked the state parole board to determine whether her felony conviction was an appropriate punishment.

“I’m hoping for a pardon,” she said.

Meris Stansbury

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