“Boundary hoppers”—parents who falsify their residency so their children can attend a particular school—can strain already cash-strapped districts. But short of sending the assistant principal to knock on students’ doors, how can administrators pinpoint wrongfully enrolled students? A new technology-based solution claims it can help.
The online service VerifyResidence.com runs computerized searches to confirm the residency information that parents provide to schools, potentially saving districts time and money, its creator says.
When large numbers of students attend illegally, schools feel practical budget pressures as they are forced to support more students than expected. The problem involves not only concern about tax dollars, but also the fact that “schools really need accurate contact [information], because they plan growth and feeder patterns based on that,” said Sonja Trainor, a senior staff attorney with the National School Boards Association’s General Counsel.
To create a residency verification service for schools and government employers, VerifyResidence.com co-owner Jimmie Mesis combined his three talents—30 years of fraud investigation experience, expertise in “finding people” as a private detective, and computer programming skills. The result, an automated residency auditing search, matches the information that parents give to schools with data available in consumer fraud databases.
These databases “accumulate tremendous amounts of public information,” Mesis said, “and access is limited only to individuals who have a very specific need. … Ours is the detection of fraud [in school enrollment].”
To begin the search process, a district would provide VerifyResidence.com with parents’ names and addresses. The search can tell whether the address that parents have given the school matches the information listed about them in the consumer databases. Within 72 hours, the search can produce a Residency Audit Report, which is a spreadsheet indicating whether the parents’ data are a “match” or “no match.”
“If it says ‘no match,’ we’re not saying that the student doesn’t live there,” Mesis said. “There are a number of legitimate reasons it wouldn’t match,” such as a change in marriage status or even a simple typo.
Schools then can request a second search, this time including not only the parents’ names and address, but also their dates of birth. Even if the second search turns up a “no match” result, the case is “still not fraudulent, just suspect,” Mesis said.