Schools' ID Requirement Criticized - Albuquerque Journal

Schools’ ID Requirement Criticized

Parents trying to enroll their children in certain elementary schools in the La Cueva cluster have been hit with an unusual request: present extra documentation to prove they live in the district, along with the usual paperwork required by Albuquerque Public Schools.

One parent criticized the move by Dennis Chavez Elementary School as elitist, and compared it to segregation, while the principal said it was necessary to prevent fraudulent registration at the popular Northeast Heights school.

Specifically, Dennis Chavez was requiring parents to provide both a PNM bill and a lease or mortgage in order to prove their residency. APS only requires one of those documents. Parents were also asked to show their driver’s license to verify the parent or guardian’s identity.

At North Star Elementary, parents were asked to show their driver’s license for address verification.

But neither practice was ever sanctioned by the district, and on Monday principals were ordered to discontinue both after superintendent Winston Brooks told an APS executive to look into the parent’s complaint.

Parent Gary Mulryan wrote to the school board after his children were denied registration at Dennis Chavez because Mulryan would not comply with the extra requirements.

In an email exchange between Mulryan and principal Jennifer Roybal-Harris, Roybal-Harris wrote that the policy was established because of the popularity of schools in the La Cueva cluster.

“As a La Cueva cluster, we are often receiving other families in our district that live OUTSIDE our boundaries,” Roybal-Harris wrote. “They often try to get into our schools through various ways. Due to this, the La Cueva cluster principals have all agreed to ask for additional documentation … We do this to ensure that every child at our school is there legitimately by either living in our boundaries OR having an approved transfer.”

This, it turns out, is not true. APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the practice was never clusterwide.

Robin Hoberg, principal of Double Eagle Elementary School, said she collaborated with Roybal-Harris and North Star principal Stephanie Fascitelli to establish a consistent set of registration criteria. But all three schools, which are in the La Cueva cluster, adopted different policies.

Hoberg said that at her school, a driver’s license could be accepted as a supplement to other documents, like a cellphone bill that might not conclusively verify an address. Hoberg said a driver’s license was never a requirement at her school.

Fascitelli said North Star asked to see driver’s licenses, but would not stop a parent from registering if they refused. She said the measure was intended to verify that students live in the school’s boundaries. North Star has been at capacity since it opened, and has a waiting list of 38 students.

“These schools up here are so sought-after because they’re great schools,” Fascitelli said.

Roybal-Harris makes it clear in her email to Mulryan that a driver’s license is needed at Dennis Chavez.

“We will also ask to see your driver’s license to ensure you are truly the guardian/parent enrolling the child as listed on the pre-printed card. Since I have yet to meet you, this will be especially important as you come to register (we would hate for someone else to sneak in and register your children without your knowledge!)” she wrote. “Parents who decide to not show their driver’s license as proof of identity are not allowed to register their children and will be asked to come back at a time when they are ready to do so.”

In his response to Roybal-Harris’ email, Mulryan expressed concerns about the requirement.

“Any student meeting the APS requirements can enroll in the Rio Grande, Highland or West Mesa clusters without question but they need special forms to enroll in the La Cueva cluster? Instead of trying to get children into school, Ms. Roybal-Harris is using bullying and intimidation to keep students out of her school. It is a shocking abuse of power,” Mulryan wrote.

Roybal-Harris said Monday that she would change her school policies to comply with APS guidelines. She said when she took over at Dennis Chavez, the school had 100 students who had illegally enrolled. Those students were allowed to stay, but she set up the safeguard of requiring both a lease/mortgage and a utility bill at registration.

Armenta said she believes Roybal-Harris’ intentions were good.

“It was an overzealous attempt to ensure that the integrity of the transfer process was being followed,” Armenta said. “It shouldn’t have happened, and it’s being corrected.”

She said district officials will send a message to all APS principals, clarifying that they are not allowed to adjust their registration practices.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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