Maine Township High School Dist. 207 Board of Education members made a small but significant change to district residency requirements Monday in the wake of the discovery that non-residents played on the Maine South football team, forcing this season’s Hawk win total to be voided.
Dist. 207 Supt. Ken Wallace read a statement on residency before the vote at Monday’s school board meeting in Park Ridge.
“Tonight we are making a minor change to a residency policy to add clarification to it, making sure that we communicate in every possible way that students need to be legal residents of the district while enrolled in the district,” Wallace said.
The previous policy said, “A student who becomes a non-resident during the school term may attend school until the completion of the school term in June on a tuition-free basis so long as there is no break in enrollment after becoming a non-resident.”
The new language added to the residency policy said, “provided the student was a legal resident on the first day of the school term.”
Wallace said coaches, including coach Dave Inserra, are not responsible to ensure players are residents. The district hired a full-time investigator to look at residency last fall before the football scandal broke, when the district faced the possibility that some Maine South football players lived outside the district in violation of Illinois High School Association rules.
“This year’s residency events have helped us learn some important lessons that we are already using to improve our processes. We have multiple active cases right now, and we will continue to follow through on any student residency case that has merit. Something I want to make clear: In every single case of student enrollment parents have to prove initial residency through the proper documents which includes leases, utility bills, driver registrations and other similar documents. The problems occur most often when someone is establishing a second residence for the sole purpose of enrolling in school other than the one in which their primary residence is located,” Wallace said.
He continued saying the issue goes well beyond Dist. 207. “I believe the issue of student residency is wide-spread, well beyond Dist. 207. The way the law is currently structured, it’s a pretty low bar for someone to meet to gain initial enrollment into our schools.”
He said the burden of proof is on the district to prove a student is not a resident.
“This takes weeks in most cases to do, and then the legal due process can take weeks if not months, and that is for each case,” Wallace said.
He said he will reach out to local legislators to tighten laws regarding residency, including increasing penalties for parents who falsify residency.Support local news by subscribing to the Journal & Topics in print or online.
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