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'Tis the season to enroll your child in school. And with school enrollment becoming increasingly competitive, there's a growing trend of parents committing school enrollment fraud to beat the system.
School fraud cases raise questions about school funding disparities and pit parents' pursuit of better academics or safer hallways against schools' interest in protecting their funding and quality.
Here's the low-down on what school enrollment fraud is, and how it can cost you big-time:
What Is School Enrollment or Residency Fraud?
Enrollment fraud can occur in a variety of ways, including:
The key point: The address you use for school enrollment can't just be a temporary residence or a place where you own property. You and your child need to actually live in the home -- your true residence.
When you lie about where you live and submit false proof of residency documents, you may be committing felony records tampering. Even if you have the best intentions for your kids, providing an address that isn't yours is still fraud.
One Ohio mother learned that the hard way when she was convicted of lying about her residency to get her daughters into a safer school district, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
After her home was burglarized, she enrolled them in her father's suburban school district nearby, using his address.
That way, said the single mom and teacher's aide, they could go to a safer home after school.
But district officials challenged the residency of her girls in 2007, when they were 9 and 13 years old. The mom was convicted of felony records tampering.
What Are the Potential Punishments?
The prosecution of school enrollment fraud is rife with controversy, reports NPR.
Still, school districts are pursuing enrollment fraud cases more aggressively than ever, having students followed by private investigators, fining or pressing criminal charges against parents or even sending them to jail, reports the Times-Dispatch.
A district may pursue civil or criminal action against anyone making false claims.
Though the Ohio mother spent nine days behind bars (followed by two years of probation), jailing parents for enrollment fraud isn't very common.
Hefty fines and student expulsions, on the other hand, are quite common punishments. Fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Regardless of how you feel on the topic, know that when you commit school enrollment fraud, you might end up harming yourself and the very children you're trying to help.