I read an extremely informative article today from Micheal Flaherty on the Wall Street Journal‘s Web site about precautions being taken by schools to keep “illegals” out of their classrooms. By illegals, that term is used in reference to students trying to attend better schools outside of their neighborhood by claiming a false home address. He talked about Kelley Williams of Ohio, a mother who recently got nine days in jail for theft after using her father’s address to allow her kids to go to a much better public school in his neighborhood. “Lucky” for her though, a judge reduced the felony charges to misdemeanors. But she isn’t the only one.
Parents from states across the country have been getting hauled in and getting charged with felony counts of theft for going out of their way to give their children better educations and better chances at life. Flaherty uncovered the fact that schools have now started hiring investigators to follow students home (I’m sure they’re only following the minorities…) to ensure that they live within the district. And lets not forget the schools that opt for VerifyResidence.com, which rewards people for telling on kids who live outside of the district. WORD? Are we really treating children and their parents like illegal immigrants trying to cross borders? Taking over-the-top precautions such as these does nothing but keep children of low-income homes and many minority kids from less-than-opulent neighborhoods in crummy schools. Ones where test scores are low, expectations are lower, and where the teachers are fresh out of college and talk bad about their students on social media pages (oh, it SO happens).
I think reading this article bothered me most because I was in a situation like this back in the day. While I lived in the suburbs of Chicago, they weren’t really the stereotypical “suburbs.” Sure the grass was green, but there was nothing else to really get impressed about. The schools in my district were as horrible as they could be, and teachers at my high school got replaced so often and so fast that it wasn’t worth it to even try and learn their names. And I can’t forget the damn near riot that broke out during my senior homecoming assembly, where people ran for their lives hiding under tables and getting wheeled off to the hospital after a fight broke out. I begged my father, a principal for elementary schools in the city of Chicago, to allow me the chance to make the commute to a certain city school so I could be around less ratchetness, go further in both my sports AND in my education. But not only did he say I couldn’t just because, but it also wasn’t feasible because I lived outside city limits. It wasn’t until my senior year, after years and years of bad state test scores were reported from my school, a few months before graduation, did I get the gift of learning that my diploma, received after working hard through my AP classes, meant absolutely nothing.
I don’t know why it’s so important to keep children who are seeking better educations and better lives out of schools in different districts. Are these top schools just trying to keep their facilities as lily white as possible in the hopes of stopping a stereotypical “There goes the neighborhood” effect? Will more low-income students scare away donors to the school or parents whose kids already attend prosperous educational institutions? And why go as far as to put people’s parents in jail for wanting better for their families? I think by making this the norm, we’re saying it’s okay for kids who don’t live in affluent areas to get comfortable with mediocre schools and mediocre education, and in the land of “opportunity,” that just isn’t right.