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N.J. District Hires Detective To Track Nonresident Students

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A New Jersey school system has hired a detective agency to investigate students who are suspected of illegally attending its schools because they do not live in the district.

Officials in the Pennsauken School District say they hired the Chad Detective Agency last year after receiving numerous complaints from citizens about students who live in other districts attending Pennsauken schools.

The New Jersey Assembly last month unanimously passed a bill establishing procedures for schools to check the residency of their students. The bill is pending in the Senate's education committee.

A spokesman for Assemblyman Joseph L. Bocchini, who introduced the bill at the urging of school officials in his district, said that "three or four" districts in the state have complained about problems with nonresident students attending their classes.

Since the detective agency was hired, "50 or 60" students have voluntarily left the Pennsauken schools, said William Markiewicz, the assistant to the supervisor. Most of those students probably left as a result of the agency's investigations, he said.

The district paid the agency $3,000 last year and $2,500 this year for its work.

Local Address

The students under investigation usually use a local address on their school forms but formally reside in another area, Mr. Markiewicz said.

Students do not attend out-of-town schools for any single reason, Mr. Markiewicz said.

He said there are "plenty of good schools" in neighboring areas.

Employees of the detective agency take photographs of students as they get off school buses and return to their homes outside the district, said Mr. Markiewicz. He said Pennsauken officials usually question a student's parents or guardian about the address on student records, which usually leads the family to withdraw from the system voluntarily.

Mr. Markiewicz said there is no way to determine how much money the district spends on a student from another system. He said the district spends more than $3,000 per pupil annually, but that it recov-ers some of that money in state attendance-formula funds.

"The biggest concern is that some day, if there are 30 or 40 more [outsiders attending the district's schools] it could have an impact on a class or other program," Mr. Markiewicz said.

Mr. Markiewicz said officials in the 4,900-student district are also concerned about their legal responsibilities for the nondistrict students. He said district officials had found it difficult to contact a student who needed medical care because his residency papers had been falsified.

The detective agency acts only when district officials have evidence that a student might not be a legal local resident, Mr. Markiewicz said. He said the district learns about the cases in everyday bookkeeping tasks and through tips from community residents.

District officials learned of some cases when they attempted to set into motion a telephone "calling tree" to inform families of school closings after a snow storm. The chain was broken, Mr. Markiewicz said, when some of the telephone numbers turned out to be incorrect.--ce

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