Maintaining school attendance zones

In every district I’ve covered, parents are frustrated that school officials don’t do more to make sure that all students on each campus are zoned to attend that school.
In Fulton County, parents who are new to the district or have recently moved must prove residency by showing copies of a mortgage, lease, utility bill or other document.
Families already living in the district must sign an affidavit regarding their kids’ legal address. That rule was implemented several years ago to check that students are in the correct schools, according to the district.
One parent, Avis Hornsby, is suing the district over the policy. Hornsby, an attorney, says being forced to sign the affidavit is unconstitutional and violates her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
This is the second high-profile case in recent months over school attendance. A Clayton County mother was found guilt of making false statements in a sworn affidavit to illegally enroll a child in Henry schools. She received five years probation and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. She also has to repay tuition to Henry County schools.
Do you think Fulton’s policy asks too much? What other steps should districts take to make sure students are legally enrolled in the schools they’re supposed to attend?
On an unrelated note, what do you guys think of the new format? Let me know if you have any problems or if you have suggestions on how to make it even better.

33 comments Add your comment

DB

March 11th, 2009
9:08 am

If she doesn’t mind dragging all the proof of residency, such as bills, etc., to school to prove residency, you’d think that just signing an affidavit to that effect would be a piece of cake – as long as you weren’t trying to sneak into another school district. It’s only self-incriminating if you’re doing something wrong. Therefore, if you DON’T sign the affidavit, you are basically confessing.

When I was going to school (different state), there was a kid that EVERYONE knew should be in a different district for a school that was infamous for its academic failings — even our school knew it. However, they had an uncle who owned a townhouse in our district. They showed up with a lease for this townhouse, properly executed, and that was that. The fact that another family lived there (with no kids) was beside the point – they had a lease, and no one was inclined to go knocking on the door to see who actually answered.

A couple of things I don’t like about this new format: there’s no link to other blogs, or even back to the main blog menu. You have to back out of this blog to go to another blog — pretty annoying. And the lack of HTML is disappointing — I miss the italics and bold print.

jim d

March 11th, 2009
9:40 am

**Choice schools**

Nuff said?

Reality

March 11th, 2009
9:42 am

Self-incrimination? R u kidding me? Asking someone where they live isn’t self-incrimination. If they are doing something wrong anyway, then who cares? If they are doing the right thing, why won’t they give their information?

Law suits like this is what absolutely **wastes** our tax payer money.

high school teacher

March 11th, 2009
9:43 am

How does signing an affidavit self-incriminate someone? Oh, I get it; it’s only if the person is lying and signs the affidavit. So this attorney wants to protect the right to lie. Which amendment is that? I don’t remember learning about it in my history classes. Unbelievable.
BTW – don’t like the new format for the same reasons that DB stated.

Ernest

March 11th, 2009
10:06 am

DB, you will be able to do those things and more with WordPress. You can probably go to your search engine and look for WordPress Comments Tutorial or something like that. You should be able to use HTML tags within your comments. This is definitely the new direction with respect to blogging. It would be nice to incorporate the older blogs in this format however as long as they remain accessible, we should be OK.

Laura, if you have a decent help document of the tags that one can use, it would be helpful to include it on the main page as a hyperlink.

It's not the right to lie, it's the right to remain silent

March 11th, 2009
10:20 am

The 5th amendment gives you the right to remain silent, not the right to lie. Now if the schools were as serious about following tribunal law in cases where teachers have been threatened or physically assaulted, as they are in making pseudo stands like this, maybe the schools would be good enough that people wouldn’t be tempted to lie.

Ernest

March 11th, 2009
10:21 am

This is what makes HB 251 so interesting. That is the proposed bill that allows anyone (within that school district) to attend another school is the district IF space if available and the guardians provide the transportation. If the community could develop a clear definition of capacity for any school, this could potentially work. If demand exceeds supply of seats, a lottery could then be used.

I don’t see a correlation to the Clayco case because they lived in another school district thus were not paying taxes in Henry. This woman lives in Fulton county and is rightfully zoned to that neighborhood school. From a legal perspective, are they putting another ‘burden’ on the families by requesting the affidavit. Remember the ‘poll tax’ used to keep blacks from voting prior to the Civil Rights legislation? This could be an interesting case.

V for Vendetta

March 11th, 2009
10:57 am

I wish my school would crack down on this issue. I would estimate that there are forty of fifty kids who attend my school that live out of district and out of county. Of course, to crack down on them would require the administration to have something resembling SPINES. I’ve gone so far as to take down ou-of-county license plate numbers of cars dropping kids off in the morning. Then, after school, sure enough that same kid is waiting to be picked up (usually by the same car). IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. And yet nothing gets done . . . .

“We’ll look into it,” they say. Yeah right.

lyncoln

March 11th, 2009
1:00 pm

To follow up to the ‘right to remain silent’: Let’s say you ‘plead the 5th’ and refuse to fill out the affidavit. What course of action does the school have for determining your residency status? I guess they could then allow you to make a formal showing of documents similar to a newly relocated student’s requirement to show residency, and what happens if you refuse this course of action?

I’m guessing the school denies your student the right to an education based on lack of proof of residence. The right of the individual to not disclose their place of residence is counterbalanced by the right of the school system to refuse education to students that have not sufficiently proven their resident status. Therefore, I have a feeling that this lawsuit is doomed to failure and is a waste of time.

BigJake

March 11th, 2009
1:51 pm

The only reason I could see that a parent might lie about their county of residency is if they lived in Clayton County. I do feel badly for anyone with school-age children living in that county that is unable to move out. What a black hole of education this county has become. Spending too much money on a superintendent that does not show an ounce of concern about making the changes necessary to get their accreditation back, teachers getting arrested for “non-academic” related charges (yeah, right), and a climate of distrust, greed and finger-pointing. What’s not to like? I am sure there are many good educators in the system that are trying to make a difference. Perhaps they would be allowed to move as well?

Reality

March 11th, 2009
4:23 pm

Sorry, but why should we care at all about any reasons people give for breaking the law or doing the wrong thing?

Property taxes are collected by the local governments that then support the local schools. If you don’t live in THAT local government, then you are stealing from THOSE people. End of story. Any reason for breaking the law just doesn’t matter.

Tony

March 11th, 2009
4:49 pm

lyncoln is correct. The law provides for schools systems the right to verify residency. Schools can call for documentation to be produced annually or at anytime there is reason to believe a family has moved. The taxpayers of the local district deserve this protection of their tax dollars. Too bad the “loser pays” bill didn’t make it regarding frivolous lawsuits.

Allowing open enrollment within a district is an intriguing idea. It would be a form of choice that so many are clamoring for. As long as we can protect the school from an influx of too many people, then open enrollment might be okay. We would still have to protect the residency requirement.

Atlanta_Tiger_Fan

March 11th, 2009
4:52 pm

This woman’s lawsuit should be thrown out by any reasonable judge. I live in North Fulton and I really like the fact that the county makes you prove residency. That being said, I’m in 100% support of the new voucher legislation being proposed to allow vouchers in GA. Of course the public schools are scared to death because they might actually have compete for a student and his associated tax dollars.

Swamp Rat

March 11th, 2009
5:21 pm

Henry County has a clear and strict law concerning who can attend the county schools. Our neighbors in Clayton Co and parts of Dekalb Co have let their school systems go down the toilet and as a result of this many of their students are trying to sneak into Henry Co. Fortunately, Henry has a full time police unit to check out each student and each address. Those cases found to be fraudulent are being referred to the Grand Jury for prosecution.

DB

March 11th, 2009
5:50 pm

I just thought of a question: If you have divorced parents with joint custody who live in different districts — does that give them a choice as to which district the child can attend?

I cannot believe the lack of critical thinking skills

March 11th, 2009
5:55 pm

The woman never once said, ever, that she objected to showing proof of residency. The woman in fact, by all appearences, lives in the district.
She, unlike most of the people who have commented, happens to think that questions of constitutional rights vis a vis self incrimination are questions that should be taken seriously for.

Of course given the numbers of people in this country who can name more judges on American Idol than they can Supreme Court justices, I’m not the least bit surprised.

Of course if the public school system was even a fraction as diligent as enforcing tribunal law against students who threaten and assault fellow students and staff, their objections might have a shred of credibility.

But we won’t think about that, because that might take critical thinking skills best left for American Idol.

catlady

March 11th, 2009
6:00 pm

Schools are not scared of losing the money. They don’t want to lose the kid that goes with the money. That kid is from a home that values education enough to make an effort. Schools would be glad to lose the money that comes with SOME kids, IF the private school would ever take and keep them! No vouchers until private schools have to take and keep all comers, like the public. Then, I support vouchers all the way! Of course, no private school will ever agree to take any kid that comes, voucher in hand.

ScienceTeacher671

March 11th, 2009
6:01 pm

DB and high school teacher, the new format does support HTML codes, you just have to enter them differently. You can even put in live links.Instructions would probably be nice, however.

To make it bold, use the letter b enclosed in the brackets above the comma and period before what you’d like bolded, and /b enclosed in the same brackets at the end. For italics, do the same thing but use i instead of b. Hope this helps.

ScienceTeacher671

March 11th, 2009
6:02 pm

hmmm. Italics work, bold doesn’t. A preview frame would be nice, so that you could see what’s actually going to happen without posting it first…

catlady

March 11th, 2009
6:03 pm

You can’t be “incriminated” for something that isn’t criminal, Critical Thinking Skills. If she isn’t doing anything criminal in signing her kid up for that school, she cannot possibly, by definition, incriminate (declare guilty) herself.

Bob

March 11th, 2009
6:20 pm

Any thing that restricts a parent’s ability to control their children’s education violates their parental rights.

If we insist on a government school system, then anyone who pays their property taxes should be able to use a school supported by property tax. The parent’s not paying less property tax, so why should they be condemned to an even poorer education for their children than sending them to a government school in the first place.

Fulton and other counties’ Draconian measures are right to be resisted. More greedy bureaucrats wanting power and money at the expense of citizens’ rights and well being…

Pompano

March 11th, 2009
6:25 pm

This woman is not being asked to forfeit any Constitutional Rights – no one is forcing her to sign this document.

When one applies for a job, they are generally required to fill-out and sign an App that states everything they have provided is truthful. You are forfeiting no rights by signing the App and always retain teh right to not apply and seek employment somewhere else.

Same here. The woman is not forced to sign this form. She can choose to home-school or send her children to private school if she does not wish to comply with the rules set forth. No rights forfeited.

Funny that this woman is more concerned with the county requiring her to sign a form instead of being concerned that the county required her children to attend the school that they selected.

EJ

March 11th, 2009
6:41 pm

The problem for me comes when you don’t have a way to prove where you live other than to sign a form.
I currently have a friend and her child living with him. Her child is only four and doesn’t attend school, but she is already thinking about what she will do next year.
She went through a messy break up, she was evicted from her last residence and is now unemployed. She lives with me because she can’t get a place of her own. Where is she supposed to get a utility bill? She can’t even get a driver’s license with this address on it because she doesn’t have a utility bill. What am I supposed to do, draw up a lease for my friend to sign?

Stacey

March 11th, 2009
7:02 pm

V…Although I believe the scenario you proposed is correct 99% of the time, there are exceptions. I drop my son (2nd grade) off at school because I pass it on the way to work and it is more convenient for me to drop him off than to put him on the bus. Because I drive a company car, the tag is for the county where I work and not where I live. Because my husband and I both work, my son attends ASP so I also pick him up from school in the same out of county car.

For the record, I don’t object to having to show proof of residency as required by my school district at the beginning of each school year. Not only must we prove that the legal guardian of the student is listed on the mortgage (or lease), we also have to provide proof that the utilities are in our name (the information can be no older than for the past month). If it’s a situation where the guardian is not on the mortgage or lease, both the homeowner and the guardian has to sign an affidavit swearing that the residency claim is valid, how long the person has lived there and why. Since my information is legitimate, I never bothered to question what would happen if the information wasn’t provided.

I cannot believe the lack of critical thinking skills

March 11th, 2009
7:59 pm

Her tax dollars support the school and by all accounts she lives in the district. Thus, if she is being forced to sign an affidavit, her child’s right to an education is being denied.

The difference between this and signing off on an application is that that is the private sector, and thus has no right to work at a private corporation. Her children do indeed have the right to attend public school in the district they reside, and no one has offered the first bit of evidence that she refused to provide proof of residence, or the first bit of evidence that she isn’t a legal resident where she says she is.

Pompano

March 11th, 2009
8:27 pm

No one has denied her children’s right to an education – I listed a couple of options above. I find nothing in the Constitution that guarantees a free public eduation – you are inferring that a Constitutional Right has been denied that does not exist. If a student can be denied access to a school due to bad behavior (it’s called being expelled) then what Constitutional clause would prevent a school from denying admittance if a parent refused to comply with the terms of enrollment?

My tax dollars support a lot of initiatives – if you can find a Constitutional clause that guarantees me the right to free access to all of them I’d sure appreciate you passing it along so that I can claim my share.

HS Teacher, Too

March 11th, 2009
9:20 pm

Pompano, I can’t find you a constitutional clause that guarantees you a right to the countless initiatives supported by tax dollars, but it is possible (sometimes) to establish a property or liberty interest in certain things, based on the 14th Amendment. So a little creative lawyering can sometimes get someone pretty far in making a claim to a denied “right” that isn’t explicitly a right.

That being said, I’m not sure where I come down on the whole affidavit thing. I think it’s reasonable; is it Constitutional? I haven’t thought it through that far and don’t intend to tonight!

Pompano

March 11th, 2009
11:05 pm

HS Teacher, Too

You make an excellent point – a good one to wind down the evening.

Also appreciate the counter opinion by ICBTLOCTS – much better than watching the ‘LOST’ re-run this evening.

Thanks

Reality

March 12th, 2009
8:28 am

There seems to be two totally different issues here.

One is the child who lives completely out of the school system attempting to attend a school located inside of a place where those parents pay no taxes. For example, they live in Clayton County and send their child to a school in Forsyth County.

Another is the child that lives inside of a school district where the parents do live and pay taxes, but the child is attending a school that is not their “home school” based on the school district maps. An example is a student living in DeKalb County whose home school is McNair High School, yet the parents register their child at Druid Hills High School (both are in DeKalb County).

Both are wrong and illegal… and here is why… The first one is obviously wrong. Those parents are essentially “stealing” the tax dollars from those families that are paying to support the school. I hope that this is a no-brainer and no further explanation is needed.

The second one is also wrong. School district maps are drawn to consider population shifts and available facilities. If every family with children suddenly move into one school’s district, that one school facility cannot support the needs of all of the children – just can’t happen. So, the BOE has to draw school district maps based on population location so that the current facilities can serve the students the best possible way. Depending on the law(s), they may also need to take things into account such as race, poverty levels, etc., when they draw these lines for schools. For example, they cannot on purpose draw a line around all public housing and say that these children must attend this one school.

So, there are (or should be) valid and logical reasons for having these school district maps. These maps may change year to year based on population shifts.

In addition, these maps are important because they will basically determine the FTE money coming from the State. FTE money is the State funds given to the school based on head count of students. When the school districts draw these lines, they also attempt to ensure that the FTE money going to one of their schools is more or less the same as the FTE money going to another school – one school should not be over crowded with extra money while another school is empty with no money.

With this reasoning, I HOPE that all can see why it is wrong for a random parent to make a selfish determination to take their child from their home school and register them in a different school – even within the same school system. If there is any arguement about….. “I want the best for my child and so I want my child to attend school X.” Then, my response is…. if you want the best for your child, why not work (donate your time, run for BOE, etc.) to make your HOME SCHOOL the best that it can be? You will be spending time and effort and money trying to cheat the system – why not use that time and effort and money to simply improve the HOME SCHOOL?

New Format

March 12th, 2009
8:56 am

I agree with DB.
“A couple of things I don’t like about this new format: there’s no link to other blogs, or even back to the main blog menu. You have to back out of this blog to go to another blog — pretty annoying.”

Zoe

March 12th, 2009
9:52 pm

EJ, the woman and the child living with you qualify as “homeless.” When she registers her child for kindergarten she’ll have to explain she is “doubled up” and living with you. She’ll qualify for registration at the school your home is zoned for under the McKinney-Vento Act. If she registers as homeless, most public school systems have grants to help with school supplies and other things. She DOES NOT have to be receiving welfare or any other type of government assistance to qualify. I hope she gets back on her feet. I found a great link that has documents explaining how this law is supposed to be interpreted. I’d print it out and have it ready in case she has problems registering her son.
http://www.serve.org/nche/m-v.php

Ernest

March 28th, 2009
4:30 pm

this is a test

Ernest

March 28th, 2009
4:31 pm