How far will you go to get your kid into just the right school? That's the question buzzing around Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, home...
How far will you go to get your kid into just the right school?
That’s the question buzzing around Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, home of John Stanford School. It’s a public school, but it’s so popular you have virtually no chance of getting your kid admitted if you live more than a half-mile from the building. Unless you cheat.
So far this spring, four kindergartners for the class of 2005-06 have had their admissions revoked because their parents fabricated home addresses to get them in.
In two cases, parents went to extremes to game the system, which admits students based on how close they live to the school. These families lived too far away, so they rented apartments nearby that they had no intention of using.
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“It’s a sad, sad statement,” said Jay Glover, an enrollment analyst with Seattle schools. “These are obviously people of some means, considering the rents around here.”
The district wouldn’t tell me the terms of the rental leases, except that one was for a studio way too small to house a family of five. And one family made a howling error.
“They sent in their lease to prove their address,” Glover said. “But the lease specifically said: ‘No children.’ They obviously hadn’t read it, or hoped we wouldn’t read it.”
Or maybe they just went blind striving to get ahead in this hypercompetitive age. I want the best for my kids, too. But renting a dummy apartment to scam your way into a public school is so far over the line it makes me wonder if there even is a line anymore.
Using false addresses to get into school is not a major problem, district officials say. Typically only a few are revoked each year, citywide.
My hunch is that it’s widespread at certain premiere schools, though. People usually don’t get caught because nobody is trying to catch them.
“We do the best we can, but we’re not a detective agency,” Glover said.
The only reason the four families got caught is because a few fed-up parents in Wallingford ratted them out.
Despite qualms about snitching, several people researched property records and submitted names of suspected cheaters. One turned in “a long list” of John Stanford families across multiple grades, Glover said. It’s being investigated, and more may get revoked.
One Wallingford resident says she was approached by parents from another part of the city, who asked if they could pay her to switch her utility bills to their name for January and February — giving them “proof” of a John Stanford address during the enrollment period.
One of the cheaters was so smug and boastful about beating the system, Glover says, that an acquaintance felt compelled to turn him in.
That’s what I find curious in all this. In recent years half a dozen parents have told me they gave false information to get into a school. They all said it matter-of-factly, with no hint of shame. And I just shrugged, as if they had done only what was expected of them.
It makes me wonder. Do we even know what cheating is anymore?
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday.
Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.