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Local

DeKalb School District 428's student residency verification plan draws negative reaction

DeKALB – Sarah Moses of DeKalb said that if the DeKalb School District 428 board works to approve a contract with a private detective agency to verify the residency of district students, it would create a chilling effect in the community.

It would also come at a time when school funding is short and the district is trying to have more students in their schools, she said.

A total of 10 other people spoke strongly against such a proposal during a special board meeting Tuesday, arguing that it could disrupt student diversity and cause the administration to lose public trust. Tensions got so high during the discussion that President Victoria Newport warned the audience that it would be asked to leave the room if things did not calm down.

William Beitler of Channahon-based National Investigations Inc. presented his firm’s work as an informational item during the meeting.

He began his presentation by saying his company has never targeted a specific group of students in its investigations and had torn up the contract of a district that asked them to do it in the past.

Beitler also said that the investigations are conducted more at the office level to confirm a student or family’s residency than sending someone out to collect information.

Board Secretary Howard Solomon asked whether the race of students that were recommended to be removed from the district was proportional to the overall demographics of the total student population. Beitler said he has never seen disproportionate data when it comes to student demographics and the composition of the community is normally what is seen for the composition of disenrolled students.

Beitler added that the company cannot and will not report any undocumented students they may discover.

Many of the board members said there needs to be more discussion and more information, such as enrollment data for the current school year and what such a contract would cost the district, before this matter can be brought back as an action item.

“I don’t think we should make a decision without some kind of community input on how we can do it,” board Vice President Fred Davis said. “The first question is do we need it and how do we make it work.”

The board decided to table further public discussion until a later date. Superintendent Jamie Craven suggested bringing it back after the district’s demographer presented their findings, which will take place sometime in October or November.

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