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Broward cracking down on use of false addresses for school registration
Brittany Shammas Brittany ShammasContact Reporter
School district searching for parents who used false addresses in school registration
When Broward School District administrators began considering boundary changes last year for popular schools, parents complained that some students had gotten in using fake addresses.
Now, the district is poised to find out whether that’s true – and how widespread a problem it is. Officials are combing through information submitted by families at some schools and verifying they’re in the right place. They’ll also investigate anonymous tips.
“It’s intensive,” Chief Portfolio Officer Leslie Brown said. “But we are willing to do it to make sure that families do not have to go through significant boundary changes because of people that are not within their boundary.”
Lying about a home address to get into a different school is against school board policy. Because parents declare their addresses under penalty of perjury, doing so can also be prosecuted as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years behind bars.
But administrators say they will work with families whose addresses raise questions. Those found to be attending the wrong school will get help enrolling in another school, either within their boundary or through the district’s choice program. They can also appeal.
“This isn’t any kind of witch hunt,” said Patrick Sipple, director of Demographics and Student Assignments. “We’re just trying to do best thing for the students so that we don’t have unnecessary boundary changes.”
The district is starting with two crowded, A-rated schools: Bayview Elementary in Fort Lauderdale and Cypress Bay High in Weston. Both are projected to need boundary changes within the next two years.
Administrators plan to verify the addresses of families attending those schools, go through the appeal and reassignment process and then re-register each student in the schools (except those in the highest grades) before the start of 2016-17 school year.
Those steps will be repeated for all schools facing boundary changes.
“If it’s 30 kids, it’s 30 kids; if it’s 100 kids, it’s 100 kids,” said school board member Nora Rupert. “It’s unfair to the rest of the people who are actually complying with the policies and procedures we have in place.”
The Palm Beach County School District began a similar crackdown in the fall of 2007, after an uproar over boundary changes for Jupiter High and William T. Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens. In each of the first five years, an average of 215 boundary jumping students were withdrawn, said School Enrollment and Demographics Manager Jason Link.
He said his department estimates that another 400 students annually were deterred from using false addresses.
Among those that were caught, Link said, were students whose addresses were listed as a P.O. box or a Publix and families where each child had a different address. Some families had “shell” apartments – empty apartments rented inside the school boundary – and some were crossing county lines to attend the district’s schools.
“I could probably write an interesting book about all the sneaky methods people have used to get into schools,” Link said.
Administrators say most people who try to jump boundaries believe they are putting their children in better schools than the ones assigned to them.
For that reason, Rupert said she sympathizes with them.
“Every single kid should be able to go to their boundaried school and get a first-class education,” she said.
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