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CPS: Lifetime ban on anyone cheating way into selective schools

Less than a month after the inspector general revealed flaws in how Selective Enrollment residency fraud cases were policed, Chicago Public Schools officials accepted his suggestion for a lifetime ban for any students found to have cheated their way into the competitive test-in schools.

The new rule applies immediately to anyone who’s found to have falsely claimed to live in the city or to live in a more disadvantaged area. It will remove students guilty of fraud from selective schools and then ban them for life from returning to any CPS selective program.

CEO Forrest Claypool said the new policy closes a loophole for students who, even after found to have fraudulently secured a spot, could return to the same school by transferring back later on.

“Fraud not only undermines confidence in the school system, it robs a deserving student of an important educational opportunity,” Claypool said in a statement.

Claypool’s action, which is an executive decision rather than a board-approved policy, comes weeks after Inspector General Nicholas Schuler blasted CPS for lacking a “robust board policy that establishes lasting and meaningful penalties for selective-enrollment fraud.”

He had recommended the permanent ban as well as a penalty ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 for every year a student attends a selective-enrollment school under false pretenses.

Schuler said in his annual report that he found at least 18 students to have lied about where they live to game the admissions system. Several claimed city addresses while living in the suburbs, others claimed they lived in lower-income parts of the city in order to get a leg up on the admissions process, which sets a higher threshhold for families living in more affluent areas.

“It is widely known that the selective-enrollment application process is highly stressful for students and families, and that it causes no small amount of tears, anxiety and lost sleep,” his report reads. “Indeed, some families decided to remain in Chicago, rather than move to the suburbs, because of the chance their children might be accepted at a selective-enrollment high school. Those upstanding and hard-working families who follow the rules bear the brunt of the damage caused by enrollment fraud.”

One of the more egregious cases involved a student kicked out of Walter Payton College Prep High School after claiming to live in Englewood when she lived in Beverly. She then managed to transfer the next day to Northside College Prep High School — a top school that would have denied her admission based on her eighth-grade application.

But Schuler also told the Chicago Sun-Times that he suspects the fraud is more widespread, calling the cases his office uncovered “a sampling.”

CPS said letters will go out to all students who’ve applied that will require parents to acknowledge with a signature that they understand the consequences of faking residency.