2006-06-30 / Front Page

'Falsified Addresses' KO PS 114 Students

'More Than 25, Less Than 50' Slated For Other Schools
By Howard Schwach

More than 25 students of Public School 114 in Belle Harbor, some who have been in the school since kindergarten, have been removed from the school by Principal Stephen Grill because they were found to have "falsified addresses" and actually lived outside the school's attendance zone, District Superintendent Rita Giaramita told The Wave this week.

"We found several families that could not verify that their students actually live in the school's zone," Giaramita said. "Chancellor's Regulations require that those students be discharged from the school and registered in the schools they belong in."

While the superintendent said that she "could not remember" the exact number of students involved, she said that it was "more than 25 and less than 50."

"There were about 25 families involved and some had more than one student in the school illegally," she added.

Neither Giaramita nor a Department of Education source could say how the families were slated for investigation, but the address verification was done by a new and relatively unknown office called the Office of Student Placement, Youth and Family Support Services (SPYSS).

According to Giaramita, attendance teachers attached to that office visited homes where it was suspected that an out-of-zone student was listed as living.

"We went to homes, spoke to neighbors, asked adults in the home to show us where the child sleeps, where the child lives," she said. "We had to verify whether or not the child lives in that house."

One parent who went through the process and asked to remain anonymous because her child is still in the school, said that she believed that the process is unconstitutional.

"How can they demand to come into your home, to look around at your personal property without some sort of warrant," the parent asked.

A source familiar with the process, who did not want to be identified, said that department officials do not enter a home unless they are given permission to do so by the parent.

"They do not go into a home without that permission," the source said.

The parent, however, told The Wave that there was an implicit threat that if the two officials who came to her door were not allowed to enter her home, her child would be automatically removed from the school.

School regulations are clear on the issue of removal from a school because of a falsified address.

Regulation A-101 says, "If a student is registered in a school based upon a falsified address, the school must have an attendance teacher conduct an address verification. If the address proves to be false, the principal, upon notification to the parent, may proceed in transferring the student to [his or her] zoned school."

The regulation also sets up a process for appealing the decision to the regional superintendent within ten days of the notification.

Giaramita said that the use of falsified addresses had been around for a while, but that the school now needs the seats because it has become a kindergarten to eighth grade school and because the region wants to bring more special programs and perhaps some special education programs to the school.

And, while the parent who spoke to The Wave understands that she did wrong by falsifying her address so that her child could gain admission to the school, she believes that the families that are being removed from the school are being treated unfairly by the Department of Education.

"Luckily, we made the cut because of our circumstance," she said. "If they made the neighborhood schools such as PS 225 more attractive, a more viable alternative, I would not have had to do this in the first place," she said. "A number of the students who were removed and sent to PS 225 have been in the school for three or four years. It is not fair to the kids to tell them now that they have to go to a new school, make new friends, have new teachers, just because their parents wanted them to have a decent education."

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