More than two-dozen students were removed from Norwalk schools this year because they lived in other cities. However, none of the parents in these cases have been arrested, unlike Tanya McDowell, a Bridgeport mother who has been charged with stealing school services.
Since September, outreach workers for Norwalk Public Schools have conducted 58 investigations, according to Bruce Morris, human relations officer for the Norwalk schools. Investigations found that in 24 cases, the students were valid Norwalk residents. In 26 instances, the children did not live in Norwalk and were disenrolled. Eight cases remain under investigation. The district has said repeatedly it "did not initiate" the criminal proceedings against McDowell. The Housing Authority and the Norwalk police initiated the arrest.
Morris would not comment on which schools the 26 students attended or which cities or towns they were from. He said 16 of the 26 were elementary school students.
Morris said school administrators have some “flags” that a student might be out of district, including poor attendance, returned mail and unreturned phone calls. Currently, the district has two outreach workers that go to homes to confirm Norwalk residency, based on calls from school administrators.
The review confirms there are out-of-district students attending Norwalk school, says Morris. The information also implies, however, that the “larger public perception of hundreds of out-of-districts students is probably inaccurate." He also points out that half of the investigations were unfounded.
School board Chairman Jack Chiaramonte said there should be a monetary penalty for illegally attending an out-of-district school. “Right now, there is no disincentive to attend our schools. An education is not free. It comes from taxpayers' money,” he says. “Norwalk is having a hard enough time taking care of its own.”
Chiaramonte plans to put the out-of-district policy on the agenda for the next Board of Education meeting. “If you lie on a government form, there has to be a penalty. Right now, what's the worst that can happen? You just get sent back. It's all bark and no bite.”
Do you think there should be a penalty for enrolling children in an out-of-district school system?