H-F residency investigations helping to weed out cheaters

Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s outstanding reputation is drawing families to the south suburbs, but don’t try to game the system. For nearly 25 years, District 233 has had a policy of rooting out cheaters through a special Residency Verification Program investigation process. 

“We take this seriously,” Superintendent Von Mansfield told school board members at their January meeting in announcing the removal of two students. 

“We are taking the time. It’s a long process and we do due diligence. I think taxpayers approve of this.”

Information on suspicious students can be provided to Assistant Principal Craig Fantin at 708-335-5593. Fantin coordinates the student enrollment process and the Residency Verification Program. All information is reviewed by Fantin and the district’s two investigators. Last school year, the investigators conducted 302 investigations. This year, 48 investigations and dual residency checks have been completed, according to Jodi Bryant, director of Human Resources and Public Relations.

Once an investigation file is closed, and the student and parents are notified of the findings of removal, they are given the opportunity to state their case at a hearing. This year, six students were removed after being given hearings. 

“However, some (parents) choose to forgo the hearing and withdraw the student,” Bryant said. 

When a student is discovered to be violating the residency requirement, “parents are charged tuition for each school day a student was fraudulently enrolled,” Bryant explained. This year, tuition was set at $8,475 per semester.

“As a board, we have no animosity for the parents who want a better education for their child,” District 233 Board President Richard Lites said. If anything, Lites says it speaks highly of H-F that families want their children enrolled there.

“But it is our fiduciary responsibility,” Lites added, to know that the students enrolled are from families paying taxes for H-F. “We don’t remove these students out of malice. We do so because it’s mandated.” 

According to H-F enrollment requirements, Bryant said, each incoming student must prove residency by presenting various documentation, including a mortgage statement or lease papers, utility bills, insurance papers and bank statements, as well as previous high school documentation for transfers and when applicable divorce decree or guardianship papers. Incoming freshmen also need to present their placement test information and immunization records.

Lites said it is unfortunate that the student is the person who suffers in the removal process, especially after the student has developed friendships and joined clubs.

“The rug gets pulled out from under them. It’s sad, but it can’t be helped,” he said. 

Students removed from H-F transfer on an unofficial transcript because they weren’t officially enrolled at H-F, Lites added.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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