More Schools Target Fake Student Addresses

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"There have always been rumors of an element of fraud each year" at Carpenter, Principal Joseph Martinez said.

But the problem became pressing when school officials learned the campus was projected to have more kindergarten applicants than it could accommodate. (Carpenter has classroom space for 168 kindergarten students, but is expected to have roughly 190 applicants by the time registration ends.)

That prompted administrators to find out exactly how rampant fraud was at the school, Martinez said.

Carpenter worked with a company to cross-reference documents provided by parents. The analysis — which kept parents' identities anonymous to avoid privacy issues — found that out of about 1,000 students, about 120 addresses could not be verified. Of those, about 30 to 50 could be students who began at Carpenter but them moved out of the area—a situation that is allowed under charter rules.

The school is now waiting for approval from L.A. Unified for the company to provide the families' names, which could occur as soon as this week. But the possibility of having to remove students who have attended Carpenter for years presents educators with a moral quandary.

Through no fault of their own, those students would have childhood friendships and relationships with teachers severed. There also may be an emotional toll on friends left behind.

But the school is just trying to do what is right, said parent Heather Tonkins, chairwoman of Carpenter's governing council. "If my kids happen to know kids that are in that situation, it's going to be devastating on all sides," she said.

Martinez said he cares deeply about the students who could be forced out, but that the school must fulfill its mission of educating neighborhood children.

"Their parents have put them in this predicament that will disrupt their education," he said. "My heart goes go out to those kids. But I have to put the higher priority on people who have not broken the law."

L.A. Unified last week approved the use of public records to verify addresses in a move that would help other schools root out the problem—before students are enrolled.

Even if the use of public records to verify addresses roots out cheaters, it still may not solve the enrollment problem.

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