Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pasco school district looks to strengthen student address verification rules

Pasco County parents have demanded their school district amplify its efforts to make sure students are not lying about their addresses for more than two years. They've done so in hopes that drive might alleviate the need to change attendance zones at crowded schools.

They might soon get what they've been asking for.

District officials have taken steps in this direction, asking for more documentation when children register and conducting some localized reviews in zones where complaints have been highest.

And now they're considering major revisions to district student assignment policy, to make even more clear that they can ask for proof of residency and do something about it — specifically, remove children from a school — if evidence of false information emerges.

The draft proposal, which is set to come to the School Board during a July 24 workshop, would add several paragraphs that aim to solidify the district's authority in this area.

The first states that when a school is at or above its capacity, or projected to be so within five years, the district could begin a process to ensure that students attending that school live within the boundary or have received a choice assignment there. That initiative could lead to the request for more documentation, and possible re-registration of any or all students.

The next goes on to state that if the district learns a student's assignment or registration was fraudulent — meaning "supported by false or misleading documentation" — or was "intended to circumvent other attendance/eligibility rules," the student may be required to return to the school in his or her attendance zone as the district decides.

That student would then be ineligible for any other reassignments for the remainder of the current year and also for the following year.

The revision also would add a section on required returns to a student's assigned school, which begins by noting that school reassignment is subject to change by the district office, in consultation with the receiving school's principal.

It would specify seven reasons why a student might be sent back to the school in his or her attendance zone. Those include:

– Student Code of Conduct violations
– An "unacceptable" number of absences
– Parent inability or unwillingness to work within school policies and procedures
– Reasons for the reassignment no longer being valid
– Fraudulent reassignment or registration
– The school enrollment exceeds 100 percent capacity, or the school cannot meet state class size requirements

District leaders long have contended that they did not have rules making clear the consequences of lying on registration forms, even though the forms noted that it's perjury to provide inaccurate information. The district also has not done anything in the past to require re-registration of students after they enter school for the first time.

These provisions, if approved, would spell out the added requirements families would face and the actions the district could take.

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