Falsifying residency remains an alternative for moving into Saratoga schools

February 9, 2017 — by David Fan and Kyle Wang

Matthew, a sophomore, grew up in San Jose, beyond the district lines that would have placed him and his older brother within the Saratoga Unified School District (SUSD). One of their relatives, however, happened to own a house in Saratoga. Using the relative’s address, Matthew and his brother attended Foothill Elementary School and then Redwood Middle School without any major problems.

 

Editor’s note: Matthew is a pseudonym to protect the anonymity of the source.

Matthew, a sophomore, grew up in San Jose, beyond the district lines that would have placed him and his older brother within the Saratoga Unified School District (SUSD). One of their relatives, however, happened to own a house in Saratoga. Using the relative’s address, Matthew and his brother attended Foothill Elementary School and then Redwood Middle School without any major problems.

Matthew explained that his parents “knew that the schools in Saratoga are ‘good schools’” and that they would “give [him] a good education.”

They broke the law by doing so.  

The school district discovered the falsification when Matthew’s relative decided that he wanted to either sell or rent out his house. Although the district allowed Matthew and his brother to graduate from Redwood Middle School, the two were forced to go elsewhere for high school unless their family found a house in Saratoga.

Seeing little reason to go through the trouble, Matthew and his brother decided to attend Archbishop Mitty High School, where they are currently still students.

SUSD requires students to fill out a residency form at the beginning of each year. By lying about where they live, families like Matthew’s are subject to prosecution for perjury, but Matthew and his family were not prosecuted by the district.

“At first I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to go to the same high school as my friends,” Matthew said, “but now I think it was for the best because I’m happy at Mitty and I have friends from both schools.”

Cases like Matthew’s come to the attention of both elementary and high school district officials. As schools and houses in these districts have become increasingly popular and pricey, falsifying residency has become an ongoing problem.

A map published by the school website shows the district’s boundary lines. At some points, the lines follow major streets such as Cox Avenue; at others, they cut through neighborhoods in random patterns. In many cases, they seem to follow little reason, often splitting major roads such as Prospect Road in half.

Housing prices offer a telling sign of the demand across district lines. Rent for houses across from Prospect in SUSD can cost up to $3,000 per month more than those in San Jose, according to Zillow.

Junior Anirudh Rao, whose family moved into the district at the start of the school year, said that in spite of all the difficulties, many still see strong reasons to move here.  

Through his sophomore year, Rao had attended Mission San Jose in Fremont, a school which he said was “culturally fairly close” to Saratoga in terms of academic competition. That similarity, he said, made transitioning to Saratoga in the middle of his high school life somewhat easier.

Jane Marashian, executive assistant for LGSUHSD superintendent Bob Mistele, said that incidences of falsifying residency vary from year to year; last year, she said the district investigated around 10 cases. The district receives information about these incidences through anonymous tips or when mail is sent home is undeliverable at the address of record.

In previous years, the district was able to take photographs of people who are suspected of falsifying residency; however, the law no longer allows this method. Marashian said that each case is “investigated on a case by case basis” through resources that are  legally “within [the district’s] purview and match the situation.”

For families who live outside of the district, the student must live within their district bounding house with their legal guardian, who could either be a parent or relative, for at least three school nights or more per week. If the student violates this rule, he or she will be suspended from the school.

Legally, the district has the power to search for and prosecute individuals who falsify residency information. Nonetheless, Marashian said she knows of no one who has been criminally prosecuted for falsifying residency.

Marashian attributes the need for such policies to the high caliber of schools within the district.

“LGSUHSD offers our students an excellent education, academically and in terms of extracurricular programs, social and emotional resources and support,” Marashian said. “Parents want their students to come to our district when their home district does not offer comparable programs and support.”

As of now, Marashian said that although falsifying residency isn’t a major problem thanks to the “incredible job” that the registrars at the district office have done, the problem will continue to exist.

“I think there will always be the possibility of this falsifying residency, so we remain vigilant and consistent in our enforcement of the requirements for establishing residency,” Marashian said.

 

 
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