By Bob Skolnik
Three children from one family have been disenrolled from two schools in Riverside Elementary School 96 because they did not live in the district.
On Nov. 1, the District 96 Board of Education voted 6 to 0 to disenroll the students and to seek to collect $10,599.60 in tuition from the family. That figure is determined by the cost per pupil of educating a student in District 96 on a per diem basis.
The school board determined, based on a hearing officer's decision, that the students did not live within the boundaries of District 96 from the beginning of the current school year.
The three students, who are being disenrolled as of the close of school on Nov. 9, attended Ames Elementary School and L.J. Hauser Junior High School, said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.
Ryan-Toye declined to provide more information about the family including what town the family actually resided in or where the family claimed it lived.
"What I can tell you is the hearing officer's decision was that the family did not reside in District 96," Ryan-Toye said.
Families whose children are being disenrolled from a school district have a right to a hearing. The hearing took place in October before a hearing officer hired by District 96. Ryan-Toye said the school district used a lawyer as the hearing officer for the case, but declined to give out the name of the hearing officer.
At the hearing, both the school district and the family are allowed to present evidence as to where the family lives. Ryan-Toye declined to say whether the family was represented by a lawyer at the hearing.
In 2016, the district hired a new firm, Oak Brook-based R.E. Walsh and Associates, to conduct residency investigations. That firm investigated the present case. Riverside-Brookfield High School also uses R.E. Walsh.
District 96 moved last year to tighten its procedures regarding proof of residency after two parents complained at a school board meeting that the district was "apathetic" about enforcing residency requirements.
"We also did a full review of our residency policy and procedures," Ryan-Toye said. "This was the first year we had all families come in person to demonstrate their residency."
That review raised concerns about the family whose children are being disenrolled, but the three students were still allowed to enroll in District 96 schools at the beginning of the year.
"That process raised some red flags that led to further investigation," Ryan-Toye said.
Ryan-Toye also said that the family was investigated in response to student comments.
"There were enough questions for us to decide to do a full investigation," Ryan-Toye said.
Ryan-Toye declined to say if the three children being disenrolled attended District 96 schools last year.
"I am unable to comment on any individual student matters," Ryan-Toye said.
The family is being charged for tuition on a per diem basis dating back to the start of this school year. Last year, the per-pupil cost to educate a student in District 96 was $13,598 per student.
It is unclear how far the district will go to collect the money it claims it is owed by the family.
"We don't know," Ryan-Toye said. "At least initially we would meet and try to create a payment structure."
Ryan-Toye said this was first time since she began as District 96 superintendent in July 2016 that students had been removed from school for not living in the district.
From 2011 to 2016, 13 students left District 96 after their residency was questioned.