This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Every year, hundreds of kids are kicked out of suburban Philadelphia school districts for residency fraud. Maybe even thousands. This little-discussed corner of the K-12 world contains so many of the issues that shape education in Pennsylvania today.
WHYY explored the topic of disenrollment in our series, “Kicked Out.” This is part one. In part two, we’ll look at what school districts do when they suspect students of residency fraud.
To listen to the radio versions of this story, click on the play button above to hear part one. To listen to part two, click the play button below.
On Sept. 11, 2014, a resident of the Pottsgrove School District sent school administrators a letter demanding action.
She believed one of the neighbors in her sleepy suburban subdivision was running a scam, allowing extended family to stay at the address on school nights so they could illegally attend local public schools. Children would show up at the house early on weekday mornings or late Sunday night and disappear again Friday afternoon, the neighbor claimed.
She and others had been complaining about the house on Butternut Drive for years, saying the family was “using our school district and tax dollars.”
“We all would like to see something done, we have gone to the township, called the police, contacted the district office many times,” the neighbor wrote.
This is how many school residency investigations begin — with a tip.
Maybe some unsuspecting third-grader tells teachers she lives two towns over. Perhaps a neighbor reports strange pickup patterns at the house next door.
The tip travels up the chain to a suburban school administrator, who then requests a formal investigation. If the investigators find the student in question doesn’t live within district boundaries, the district moves to disenroll him or her.
Translation: The district kicks the kid of out school.