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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Copley-Fairlawn schools hire private eyes, lobby state lawmakers to root out illegal students

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 4:59 PM

Last month, Scene reported that the Copley-Fairlawn School District was offering $100 rewards to anyone who ratted out students who didn’t live in the district but were still attending its schools. The program is a hit with local residents, who weren’t too pleased that these students were stealing funding from their own kids. It costs taxpayers approximately $8,000 a year to educate one student in Copley. They’re not dicks out there, we swear; they just don’t feel like forking over dough to educate other city’s kids. ... At one point, district treasurer John Wheadon says, one family from Barberton had all four of their children enrolled in Copley-Fairlawn. One kid, who was special needs, cost the school almost $100,000 a year, partly because he had to be jetted by taxi to a special school in Akron. The district had the mother charged with grand theft by deception. But when the case went to Summit County Common Pleas Court, Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer found the mom not guilty, citing that the women’s failure to pay tuition doesn’t constitute theft of “professional services.” Copley-Fairlawn was basically told that they have de facto open enrollment, whether they like it or not. But it appears that the district isn’t done fighting the families who find refuge in its classrooms. Today’s Akron Beacon Journal reports that the school has also hired private detectives to root out the imposters. Even Wheadon is putting in extra hours, seven days a week, unpaid, to track down folks stealing from his till. And he’s not pleased by his discoveries. Many of the families in question rent cheap apartments in Copley, hoping to meet residency requirements. But the families never move, leaving the places in various states of disrepair. “The other day we were in a house (that somebody claimed to be living in),'” Wheadon told the Beacon. “And in one room there are nothing but empty liquor bottles all over the floor. And right in front of you is the living room, with no furniture whatsoever. Just a fireplace and a doughnut. That's all that's in the house.” Wheadon is now looking to the state legislature to dissuade parents from sneaking their kids into the district. And he’s found a supporter in Beacon columnist Bob Dyer. “Many of the outlaw parents say they're financially strapped and only trying to do what's best for their children,” writes Dyer, who lives in Copley. “But they could say the same thing about stealing new shoes. That excuse just doesn't cut it. It's time to adjust the theft laws. That would give legislators something to do while they sit around ignoring the Supreme Court's order to fix school funding.” – Denise Grollmus

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