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District 161 hires firm to look for illegally enrolled students

Flossmoor School District 161 is looking for residency cheats.

As a new academic year starts – Aug. 22 is the first full day of class – as many as 12 prospective students enrolling in district schools have been “red-flagged” for residency questions, Superintendent Craig Doster said this week. That means school officials will take a second look at the students to make sure they truly live within District 161’s boundaries.

Board of education members Tuesday approved a contract with National Investigations, Inc., which will look into whether some students who live outside the district are illegally enrolled in the schools. Under the terms of the contract, National Investigations will be paid $40 an hour for the time they are actively looking into student residency questions.

In recent years, the district has annually budgeted about $20,000 for such investigative work, Doster said.

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The district formerly employed a retired police officer to examine residency questions. That person is no longer available and District 161 went looking for an investigative firm to do the work. Doster said he checked with other school districts and found that National Investigations, based in Channahon, came highly recommended.

“They are known for really going after people who are trying to be dishonest,” he said.

Doster said it’s unlikely that all the currently red-flagged students will be investigated by the firm. Many residency questions are resolved by double-checking information provided by parents or guardians.

However, if an investigation does take place – and finds that a student is indeed living outside the district – the parents will face a hearing before school officials. Persons found to have illegally sent their children to school will then be required to pay tuition to the district. Doster said tuition fees come to $62 a day, or about $11,000 for a total school year.

Doster stopped short of saying that illegally enrolled students are a major problem in District 161.

“But it’s enough of a concern that we are taking this step,” he said.

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