Using a False Address in a Better School District

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Using investment property address for school

May 2009

We are trying to figure out the best way to send our children to decent schools. We are currently home owners in an extremely bad school district and also know we would not be able to sell our home right now in order to move to a better school district. We do have enough money for a down payment for a condo in a school district we would be happy to send our kids to. My question: if we buy a condo in the good school district and rent it out, can we legitimately use that address for our kids to send them to that school district? We will be the owners and responsible for the property taxes, etc. I would appreciate any insight on this before we move forward. Please no nasty responses! I'm just looking for information, as I am sure there are plenty of different opinions out there! Thanks! anon

No, you can't legitimately do this, in the AUSD at least. We had to provide the district with current utility bills in our name, as well as our property tax bill with the homeowners exemption to prove our residence. AUSD mom

no, you can't legitmently use that address since that is not where you live. BUT, I think it's a great idea. You just need the some paperwork showing you own the condo and you will have to put a major utility bill in your name. Just don't do it in Albany...they practically waterboard you into admitting where you live and follow you home with bloodhounds. Overrated school district anyway. Good luck and now that I've probably offended 1/2 the readers, I'll go now. erin

Check with the school district first about proof of residency. Berkeley requires 3 proofs: utility bills, driver's license, checking account bills, etc. Property tax statements would not work. They want you living there. anon

Nearly every city with a desirable school district requires that you are an actual resident, not just property owner (trust me, that is the case in Lamorinda and Piedmont, we looked into it!). Sad but true

Go to the school district website and see what proof you need to provide. If you have all those things, you are good. I think one is your car insurance and driver's be really sure I think you should set up everything as if you are really living there at least for the time from registration to the first day of school. And rent it with utilities paid by you. anon

This short answer is no, this is not legal. Here's the long answer:

Schools are required by state law to verify ''residency,'' not ownership. Residency checks can include not only property ownership or rental agreements but also W-2 forms, current paychecks, driver's licenses (or state ID cards), or vehicle registration documents. Residency policies and procedures vary widely by district, but in all cases they are looking to see that you are a resident, not an owner, in the district.

This is an ugly issue for schools, one that is primarily about money. Some districts are paid by student enrollment, some aren't. The schools on either side of residency dodging tend to suffer--the ''poorer'' school becomes poorer because they lose the per-student funding, the ''richer'' school doesn't get richer (because they are funded differently), and end up having their resources stretched as they try to educate more kids than they are funded for. (One Bay Area district saved $2 million dollars in two years by tracking down residency cheaters.)

I share all this in kindness. I hate the system that allows some students to get a great education just because of where they live, forces others to get a poor one just because of where they live, and allows others with the socioeconomic wherewithal to get around the system and choose. All of these scenarios are against the spirit of the local public school.

My advice: If you are serious about not accepting your local public school, use your investment property cash to pay for private school. You have the legal right to step out of the system; you do not have the legal right to subvert it. --a mom (and a former public school administrator and teacher)

No. You need to be 'resident' in the district. Doing what you propose is not 'legal'. I suspect that if it is discovered you will be expelled from the district. Anon

I know of a family who did this exact thing, and I heard that they got caught. Apparently just owning a property and paying the taxes there is not acceptable---you are supposed to live in it. I have heard (in albany) of officials coming to the addresses and checking to see if the kids actually live there. I would check with the school district on their policy before you invest in a property. Good luck. anon

I'd check the enrollment requirements for the district you are interested in. They might want utility bills/drivers license/etc. in your name at the address. You'd have to decide if it's worth it to you to have some of your mail go to the other address. While it's a bit sneaky, I would bet there are tons of folks who do the same thing so you gotta do what you gotta do. I would feel a bit nervous about being found out, though. I don't know if a district could kick your kids out if it found out. It seems that your kids might feel like outsiders in their school if they don't live in the same community as their peers. What about renting your current house and living in the condo in the better district? pondering the same stuff...

You have to live at the property. That is the point of having an address in the school district. I just enrolled my son in a Lamorinda High School and the documentation requested was pretty strict and no utility bills or any such things were allowed. The school requires three different proofs of residency, 1 each from these three groups (all must be current and up to date):

1. Parent/guardian passport; Driver's AND vehicle or boat license; Calif ID; or military ID

2. rental/lease agreement with written verification from manager, with manager/owner contact info; property tax bill; or homeowner's/renter's insurance policy

3. state or federal tax returns AND W2 or 1099 attached; payroll/check stub with name and address; or correspondence from a gov't agency w/your address on it.

I think using an investment property to get into a school district is tantamount to lying. I think lying to get your kid a better education sends a bad message to your children.

I have a friend who lied about residency to get her kids into the school district she wanted (using a friend's address as her own). For years she has been nervous about getting caught, never gets mailing on time, and it requires the child to go along with the lie also. My friend often worried that she or her child would piss someone off who knew where they lived who would then report them. Some people and kids are very open about not living in the district and others are cautious about who they share that info with. Just something to consider. Personally, I wouldn't want to teach my kids to be dishonest to get what they want, but then again, I'm lucky to live in the Berkeley School district and have not had to fear my children's school choices. Trying not to be judgmental, but...

One other issue with using the investment property - playdates become VERY awkward.You can never invite people to your house for a playdate or sleepover because you are trying to hide the fact you don't live in the district. Thats OK when your kids are younger but after 3rd grade or so, it is a problem. I personally would feel very uncomfortable teaching/coaching my child to lie so that we could get into a district we weren't legally supposed to attend..... practical mom

I know you got a lot of responses already...and I'm going to say the same thing. No it's not legal. Do a lot of people do it? Sure.

Let me tell you though, that as a parent of a child in one of the ''coveted'' school districts. It's totally unfair.

My husband and I work hard to afford where we live. We rent, as we cannot afford to own a home in this city. We don't have a lot left over at the end of the month because our rent is high, and our house is kind of shabby.

These are all things we took into consideration before moving here. We felt it was important to sacrifice a few things in order for our children to go to a good school district. Could we go buy a home in Richomond or parts of Oakland or Emeryville? Sure. But it's not in the cards for us right now. Our kids come first.

You sound like you are legitimately looking at options and not trying to cheat the system. Those who HAVE cheated the system are basically riding on the coat tails of the parents who have made the sacrifices like my family did.

My child started Kindergarten this year, and at least 3 kids in the class live outside the school district and use family addresses or rental property addresses. Because of the huge influx of students each year,my child got not first, not second, but THIRD choice for teacher and schedule. It was a total shock. I had to rearrange our whole life to accommodate. Not only that, but 2 other children got moved and ''placed'' in other classes (even different schools) a few months AFTER school started due to class crowding (talk about a hard adjustment!). Guess what? NONE of them were the 3 kids who don't even live here! They got to stay!

Please don't do it. It's selfish, and it hurts the families who rightly belong. I'm sure if you were on the other side, you wouldn't appreciate it either. -Frustrated parent

My two cents in this never ending discussion: Good for all of you who are able to 'sacrifice' to live in school districts where the schools are funded and that strive to give our kids the kind of education that they all have a fundamental right to - regardless of their parents income or ability to 'sacrifice'. Not everyone has the means or ability to rent/own in decent school districts - and you seriously want to limit their childrens' opportunity to receive a quality education? Unless these 'out of district' kids are causing some kind of problems at school, I think you should have a little empathy. I moved out of my family home out of necessity at age 16; I did not have the opportunity to attend college because I was working full time and helping to support my younger siblings. There is not amount of 'sacrifice' that I could make that would enable me to live within the boundaries of one of the better/safer school districts. Yes, I will take advantage of any opportunity to have my children attend school in fully funded/safe districts because I want them to go to school with kids for whom college is a given. I want them to have enough textbooks to go around, to have clean classrooms and toilets that flush. The future belongs to ALL of these kids, not just the privileged few... And yes, I volunteer....

Do what you want to do. No one will know whether you ''deserve'' to be in the district or not and any parent that doesn't want a playdate because you live out of district is a snob and a loser. Everyone deserves a good education whether they live in a ''good'' neighborhood or not . . . Whether their parents worked ''hard'' or not. Good luck in making the best decision for your child. Great education for all

I have to add a couple of additional perspectives to the discussion of using an investment property address for school residency. First, I am a city employee often given the task-- frankly, an unpleasant one--of providing the zoning information to the school district and (typically) confirming their suspicions regarding ''fake'' addresses. The various ruses used (investment property, non-existent or illegal in-law units, business address, etc.) are generally quite transparent and easy to confirm. Such behavior also appears to cause resentment among ''legitimate'' city residents even in cases in which the ruse is not ''provable.'' I consider this task a poor use of my work time. Second, I have a very close friend whose family used a false address for school, and I am convinced that this was one element of his parents' tendency to ''work the system'' that, as an adult, significantly diminished his respect for them. Anonymous

This is from the original poster: Thank you all for your responses. As I said in my original post, I was hoping for just some advice as to whether this was allowed or not, and I appreciate everyone who answered my questions. I purposely added that I was not looking for any hostile opinions or judgements and I am surprised how many people overlooked this request. Once again, for those of you that provided valuable input, I do thank you. We want to do what is right for our children and our community and as many of us are feeling, we are having a hard time with this one! For those who are fortunate to not have to worry about this, please try and understand those of us who are not as fortunate and be a little more understanding. Times are tough! oringal poster

Do school systems verify residence of students?

April 2006

I was recently surprised to learn of students who attend high school in one town yet live in another (in this case, kids who live in Richmond yet attend either Albany or Berkeley high), providing those high schools with false or former addresses. This seems grossly unfair to the legal residents of these towns who pay high taxes in order to send their kids to these schools (especially since we're looking at significant budget cuts and enrollment constraints). So it prompts the question: How do schools verify the legal residence/address of their students? What are the consequences of not reporting an honest address? How are those consequences communicated? -anonymous

Are you sure that they are using false addresses? I have a very good friend who sends her daughter to Albany schools and lives in El Cerrito. She applied as an out of district student when her daughter was in elementary school, and though they haven't taken many, if any out of district students in recent years, once your in, your in. That's their policy. I myself attended AHS when living in El Cerrito, as an out of district student, but my parents owned property in Alany and therefore paid the taxes you are referring to. Moral of this story? Better get your facts straight before you try and blow any whistle...

I can tell you how Oakland Unified did it this year: for every incoming Kindergartener who registered for the fall of 2008 as well as any new students (at any grade) entering OUSD in the fall, the district cross-referenced the home address given on the Options application with property tax statements for the City of Oakland - seems a bit of an invasion of privacy, but I guess it's a matter of public record. The district followed up with phone calls inquiring about the apparent address discrepancies and dealt with it that way. Oaklander

The district in which I teach decided a couple of years ago to introduce vigorous residency verification, which meant that parents had to provide all sorts of documents (utility bills, etc.) to prove that their families lived where they said they did. When that wasn't good enough, the district hired an ex-BART cop to check up on kids who were thought to be using false addresses. Sometimes people sent anonymous e-mails to the administration to rat out a kid. Sometimes, it was enough if a kid was late for school and cited bad traffic as the reason. Administrators sometimes did room checks at houses to make sure kids really lived at the in-district addresses. If they were found to be using a false address, the kids got a letter and a few days to get out of the school. I understand that communities are protective of the schools that they pay for, but I was heartbroken when I lost a lot of great kids in the process. School inequity stinks

You're surprised? You're kidding? This has been going on for decades, and it not just a Bay Area, or even a California phenomenon. From what I hear, administrators turn a blind eye most of the time because the families that go to the lengths to sneak their kids into another school system generally are very involved at the school, give generously and have kids who are highly motivated. Who wouldn't want those kids in the school? Additionally, there are plenty of people in Berkeley and Albany who don't send their kids to public school so I just figure it all balances itself out in the end. Public school mom

Blow the whistle on out-of-district parent?

April 2006

For many reasons, I feel it's morally wrong to cheat your way into a desirable school by lying about your address. (I wouldn't do that myself, and I definitely would not help somebody else do it.) But if it's already a done deal and I find out about it, should I keep my mouth shut, or ''tattle'' to the powers that be in order to satisfy my own idea of right and wrong? I've been struggling with this since finding out about a student (well, actually, parents of course) who lied their way into a desirable school. I keep thinking about all the people who followed the rules and were turned away because the school saved room for a student they believed was in the district but is not. It stinks...but at this point I don't know the correct moral thing to do. If I tattle, perhaps the child will not be allowed to continue this fall, freeing up a spot for a ''legal'' child. But then I wonder if I should mind my own business. I don't know. Mind my own business?

Please mind your own business. As a believer in karma, that situation will evolve the way it is supposed to but to insinuate yourself into a situation that has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU, you are only setting yourself up for your own fall. anon

I feel exactly the same way as you. I ''legally'' transfered into a desirable school, and I'm tired of finding out people lied to get in. Transfer siblings are not getting in, demographics are off- it's just not ok. But I would probably keep my mouth shut. Sad, but true! Transfer Trash

''Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone.'' I would also never cheat a school district, but if you look hard enough there must be things that we all do wrong. And what potential consequences you would face when the microscope next gets pointed in your direction? (as the other mom surely will do) anon

What makes you so sure your particular moral thinking is the ''right'' one in this situation? You're imposing your own sense of right and wrong on the world. Mind your own business. --Another Kind of Right Thinker

This is a tricky and tough situation. Please think very careflly before possibly creating major chaos for this family. I'm not saying it's OK to lie to get into the district but it's a very complicated issue. People do this because there is literally NO choice in this general area for good public high schools or middle schools. The best is barely mediocre in many of the local cities. I'm assuming you're talking either of Albany HS, MS or Berkeley High. Blowing the whistle on one family is not going to solve the problem. The school district would need to take a major stand and eliminate all illegeal transfers. It kind of has to be all or nothing, as I see it. Do you know this family? If you tell on them they will definately be asked to leave the school. This could be devistating for that you know their situation? Is this family involved in the school? Would you want to blow the whistle on someone who puts in a lot of hours on the PTA? Other committees? Is this one child hurting your child's education? It's a much bigger picture and I think blowing the whisle on one family is not going to accomlish anything except heartache for that family and you living with what you have done (good or bad).

Please think very carefully about this. Yes, it is a wrong thing to do to lie to get your child into a particular school. Look deeply inside yourself. Would you do it if you were in their situation? What if Kennedy High (Richmond...our district high school) were your option and you could not afford a private high school? We all want the best for our children and sometimes we're put in the position of putting our values on the line to put our children first. I''d say unless you're willing/able to take on the task of finding all of teh illegal transfers it might be best to myob. HOpe this is helpful. legal transfer to AHS

Don't do it! Even though I don't agree with the people that lie to get their kids into a ''better'' school district, and I wouldn't tell my kids it's OK, I would never ''tattle'' on another family. I would figure they have their own reasons, logic and circumstances that I know nothing about. In any case, they are not taking a space from a ''legal'' kid, as any kid in the disctrict is guaranteed a space in the school. Or maybe you're talking about grade school, not Berkeley High, so maybe it's not their top choice school... but still it's one in the district. Keep judgement to myself

Since you asked, my take on it would be for you to mind your own business. It's not your responsibility to police/enforce the school's policies on transfers-- it is the school's. You do not know (or if you do maybe that would shed a different light on the matter) all the background which would have driven a parent to break the rules to get their kid into this school. I imagine there are going to be a lot of heated responses to your question, as schools are such a hot button issue. If you've got energy and moral outrage to spare, work on improving all the schools, not one poor family's plight. anon

Mind your own business. citizen parent

Yes, you should mind your own business. If you can, put yourself in the shoes of the ''cheaters.'' Unfortunately we live in a place where people feel they need to cheat the system to make it work for their family. But, it is a fact. Some Bay Area schools are terrible! Their child is already enrolled and thriving (I'm guessing) at the better school. Would you want someone to upset your child's routine and sense of security because you made a decision that you felt you needed to for your family? We all have different degrees of right and wrong - and it's not our place to go beyond personally judging. Perhaps it might make you feel better to talk to the family about it? -Got a good school on lottery, but may have done anything to get out of a bad school.

First, let me say that when friends suggested I lie about our address to get my child into a ''better'' school (and offered their address for us to use), I thought it would be wrong and it would be teaching my child that lying was an okay thing to do. Over time, it would also be teaching her to be a skilled liar, which I didn't want. But that's not what you asked. You asked whether you should tell on a family that lied to get into a preferred school. If you tell, you might feel very righteous and a ''deserving'' child might get the spot. But you will be hurting a family (and a child) who has done no real harm to you or anyone you know, and it's always possible that the child who gets the spot will also have parents who lied to get him the spot. Also, if you decide to tell, you might want to ask yourself whether your life is completely free of deceit and always will be. If so, perhaps your righteousness is justified. Perhaps you will also achieve sainthood. None of us is morally perfect. If it were me making the choice, I know I couldn't afford to be the one to cast the first stone. anonymous

Don't do it. I'm reminded of what one might say to a child. ''Two wrongs don't make a right''. anon

Mind your own. Apply this to other areas of your life as well. Like mom always said - if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. JJ

There are any number of reasons why this isn't a good idea, but I'll highlilght three:

1) BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW: Perhaps you have imputed your own reasons for this parent wanting to be in this particular school. Keep in mind that Sometimes your reality doesn't match that of another person's. Unless you are intimately familiar with the life of this person, it may be unfair to second-guess his or her rationale for the action. I find this is particularly true when people from the mainstream culture make assumptions about the lives of people who may be of a different race or economic background.

2) MAKE SURE YOUR MOTIVATION IS PURE: While there may be a globally positive reason for encouraging people to follow the rules, attacking another party individually in this case may serve no great purpose, except to satisfy you personally that someone isn't ''cheating.'' If your resolve and moral fortitude are really just sour grapes pettiness and a desire to stick it to someone who took advantage of the system, it may be the wrong motivation. Maybe just venting your anger on this board, as you have done, will bring you the cameraderie that you need to let it go.

3) WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. Who among us hasn't embellished our qualifications, popped a grape in our mouth at the store, stuffed an extra wad of tp in our bra, exaggerated a wait-time at a restaurant to get seated quicker, or forgotten to report to our tax attorney that little job we did for which we got paid in cash? Are these transgressions any less egregious? Did we have a valid (or at least justifiable) reason for doing what we did? If so, how would we have felt if we had been reported? (see #1).

OK, 1 more. Don't let your anger consume you. Why on earth would you want to possibly hurt a child for the action of the parents? Karma, my friend. -- Tsan

i am one of those cheating out of district parents. however, my family is from the district and they pay the taxes for the schools. i feel no guilt, sorry, i don't. what would you do if your options were limited to a low performing school and you can't afford private school? i bet you would try your best to get your child into a good school. put yourself in their shoes. so my opinion (albeit biased) is to mind your own business. anon

Keep your mouth shut. The parents are doing whatever they can to get their child the best possible education and it's not up to you to tell on them. Go be righteous somewhere else.. Lying is ok

Okay - the out-of-district stuff is not right. But I'd say mind your own business (since you phrased the question that way). You are really punishing a child who has made friends/connections, adjusted to the school. The child did not make the unlawful decision, the parents did. Whistle-blowing punishes the child more than the parents. Anonymous

Mind your own business. You weren't hired to be the school district cop. There are people who can't afford to live in areas with desirable schools. In some cases, that means sending their child to an undesirable school that may even be dangerous, or fudging things and getting their child into a school that is a better fit/safer/better learning environment etc. What choice would you make? Even though you say you wouldn't be a cheater, I can only hope that if your child's welfare were at stake, you'd do the same. And since you can't really know what other's situations are, it's honestly none of your business. heather

Before you report anyone for ''cheating'' to get into a school, I'd urge you to double-check your motives and accept that most of these kids are already known to the school --- you may not get any reaction at all to your moral dilemma, or not the reaction you expect. I have ignored such situations in the past, because getting a kid tossed out of a school punishes him, not his parents. My own child was bumped to a different school because the school she was in officially had no out of district kids to bump instead. I think Berkeley has a real sympathy for kids from Oakland, deserved or not. I would not cheat, did not cheat. Frankly, no school in Berkeley, regardless of test scores or demographics is worth losing my integrity, and any school can be made better by the work of parents committed to helping. Was it Fair my kid got bumped? No. Did it matter in the long run? No. We would have sent her to the second school initially if we'd known -- just to save her the disruption and ourselves the disappointment and annoyance of dealing with parents who do that. The most important thing Is......?

I have read many inquiries similar to yours in the past. But this time, I really feel compelled to respond. I do not think you should blow the whistle on this child's family. I think this is petty, to say the very least. I think it is easier to claim such moral values when the person lives in a nice neighborhood in a ''desirable'' school district. What strikes me is that I do not see people being so passionate when it comes to challenge the unfairness of the whole system. In my opinion, what really stinks is the fact that not all children are able to live in a ''nice'' and safe neighborhood with ''desirable'' schools. If all public schools were made to be ''desirable'' parents would not feel the desperate need to lie in order to get their children into a good school. So I have nothing against people that lie about their address in order to get their child into a ''good'' school and I would not have any problem allowing somebody to use my address. By the way, my children are in private school for different reasons, so I am not a parent who is currently ''benefiting'' from this scheme. I guess, for me the bottom line is that we should all be fighting for social justice and better schools for all. All children are entitled to a good education and to unfold their potential. Last, but not least, I do not know what school district you were referring to, but it is appaling to me to see the difference between schools in more impoverished areas (where the population is predominately of color) and schools in middle and upper class districts where the vast majority of the children are white. I once saw a documentary about prop 13 that clearly illustrated that. They showed a delapitaded school in San Pablo in stark contrast with another school in Orinda or one of the places nearby. Now, to me this is morally wrong. Regina

I only wanted to point out that just by bringing up this touchy subject in a public forum, you may discourage people from cheating in this way. Kudos to you! Anon

Let it go. It isn't your business, and it isn't your job to play ''cop'' for the school district, to ''satisfy'', as you say, your own ideas of ''right and wrong.'' For one thing, think of the ramifications to the child, who may have to give up an established social circle, familiar teachers and school. This can be pretty traumatic, regardless of the child's age. That is hardly just and ''right'' by that child, just so things can be ''right'' in your eyes, in other ways. Anon.

I guess you have to be honest with yourself about what you hope to gain from ''blowing the whistle.'' Has your child been denied a spot in his/her home school because of the out of district child? Do you have something against this child or the parents? Consider that the family may have very legitimate reasons for not wanting their child to attend school in their home district. Not everyone can afford to live in neighborhoods with good schools, this doesn't mean they don't work hard and pay their taxes just like you and I. I guess you have to ask if you are willing to deny this child a safe secure learning environment to ''satisfy your sense of right and wrong.'' Its the child who will suffer. susan

Priority placement rules are based on outmoded concerns of diversity, ignore the rights of parents as taxpayers, and is a system rife with abuse. You're right to want to complain. But since complaining will affect the happiness of an innocent child, I suggest rather taking up the issue with the school board without naming names. Ask them why they can't simply check all names and addresses in municiple tax records against school registration records, and schedule in-home verification with remaining parents who are renters? The abuse would be eliminated.

You have no idea how desperate it feels just making it (financialy) and to be faced with the prospect of sending your child or children to a school that is a 1 out of ten. Not everyone can afford to live in a good district or even a decent district. The schools in the ''open minded'' bay area run on an aparthied system. If you can't already tell, the whole situation makes me bitter. The finer points or morals are a cold comfort when it comes to a decent education for your children. Desperate Mother Bear

You absolutely should not turn those parents in! It is none of your business and it is not your place to police other people in this manner. You have no idea what the circumstances of that child might be. Many of the schools in Oakland are terrible and this causes people to do desperate things. Turning those parents in would be a terrible thing for you to do. Anonymous

Please remember that if you ''blow the whistle'', it is not so much the parents who will suffer as the child. Whether his or her parents did right or wrong, the child had nothing to do with it. The child has established herself in the school, made friends, etc. Further, do you really know all about the circumstances that led this family to make the choice they did? It's not really that you should mind your own business, but perhaps you should keep the child's best interest in mind. And yes, I know that another child who is in the district is ''missing out'', but whoever that other child is, she or he is probably also settled in a school somewhere... Anonymous

I'm sure this will be a controversial topic, but I think you should mind your own business, and not be so quick to judge people for ''lying'' to give their kids a chance for a decent education. Do you really think it's morally correct that because family A has more money than family B, child from family A will get a better education (and thus more opportunities to increase that family's wealth in future) than child from family B? Of course in an ideal world, public schools would be fairly funded and people wouldn't NEED to try and move their kid from one district to another, but let's be realistic about the disparities that exist between one community and another. I mean, what parent would elect to schlep all the way across town twice a day unless they were really trying to better their kid's opportunities? Do you really feel that is SO selfish and immoral? Of course it's difficult when schools are so impacted, but that's a whole other issue. All of us realize the importance of a good education; what many people don't realize is how much the reality of whether or not you get one is determined by past advantages and opportunities. It's overly simplistic to think of it in terms of ''reserved spots'' and some abstract idea of who is being hurt - the reality is it's all the kids who AREN'T in your district who are being hurt, every day. anonymous

I would ask myself these questions: What is more, or less, moral: That the ''illegal'' child's parents are placed in the position they are, or that you are placed in your position? Am I sure people were turney away in my school district? Why is that? Is that moral? And finally, Am I being generous in an unfair world? Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Miguel

Normally I'm quite the law abider too, but I have to say, the idea that you'd get a kid kicked out of a good school strikes me as ... disgusting. The kid is the one who will suffer, and they are innocent in all of this. The point should be whether the laws are just and fair, not if somebody breaks them.

If you are talking about a place like Piedmont, I know someone who lives on the border and tried to legally get their child into the district through the petition process, and was turned down flat EVEN THOUGH the school in question was under-enrolled with locals, who mostly opted to send their kids to pricey private schools instead. So this person's child is going to a sub-par school in Oakland, even though there is room at a better one very close to her house. They cannot afford to move into the actual borders of Piedmont, since the average price there is something like a million dollars. And why should they have to have a MILLION DOLLAR HOUSE to get their kid a good school, anyway? The inequality involved in education today, based solely on your zip code and paycheck size, is astounding. If you actually care about educating kids, I'd keep my mouth shut. Erin in Oakland

No, you should not ''tattle''. Not everyone has the means to get into a ''desireable'' school. Part of what is so screwed up about our school system is that money, connections, and parents' access to higher education impacts the quality of education their children will recieve. Its a messed up system and its no mystery that particular sectors of society pay the price for it - people of color, low income people, immigrants. You have privelege because your kid goes to a ''desireable'' school - leave the people who are not as priveleged alone. Don't further the wrongs of a messed of system by calling out another family who is just trying to do the best for their kid. Its elitist, uncompassionate, and yes, in your words - immoral. genevieve

I cant help but draw the parallel - you drew it yourself when you used the word ''legal''to refer to the children who live in the district. At a time when the House is considering an immigration bill that would make being in the US undocumented a felony, people laying claim to certain rights because they have ''legal'' standing is wrong. Have some compassion. Dont report the child. Her or his parents are doing the best they can with what they have. Can you expect them to do any differently?

It would be absolutely wrong to do such a thing! You have no reason to do so. It is not you business at all. You obviously have no idea under what conditions people lie to get their children into the best school possible. I as far as I am concerned they are just doing their job as parents; to get the best for their child (FYI, I'm not one of these parents. My son goes to private school.) Let them alone. Anna

why ask others to live by YOUR moral code? Worry about your own actions and those of your children and leave others to make decisions about what is right for them. Wouldn't you too ''steal'' a piece of bread for your children if they were starving? Our public education system is in a crisis - those parents are just trying to do the best for their child. True, they are breaking the rules but that is their business and it does not adversely affect you and yours - so leave them be. Also, the real victim here would be the child if you tattled - that child has made connections and friends and knows the teachers. How horrible to be pulled out of school! Try to put yourself in the other parents situation and be a kind person - we are all in this together. anon

Decent schools should be available to every family. If committed parents are creative enough to be able to find their way to desirable schools, good for them. It's not possible for every one to be able to afford housing in these desirable districts. Let it go. Education is the greatest source of inequality in America. m

My thoughts are in the form of a few questions and a response. One question is have you actually approached or feel safe enough to approach the parent/s and talk with them? You obviously feel that this is a justice issue. (Being a devil's advocate for a moment...) Do you actually have the proof that they lied? Maybe they moved and decided not to pull their kid out yet. Maybe there is a loophole that they fall into. Maybe the parents are divorced or a multi family situation where a legal parent does indeed live in the ''legal'' area. One last question for you is, how involved are you or want to be? My thoughts are to discuss your concerns with the parent and be open to their response. If they are not willing to ''play fair'' then do your homework and find out from the school district how they check a person's address and what are the legalities. Once you have ''all your ducks in a row,'' then you can proceed with writing a letter to the school district stating that a parent has lied about actual address, the school's responsibility and, remind the school district of its' policies. Be clear, concise and ''objective.'' If you need to, write the angry letter first then throw it away and begin with a clear plate. You also must let go of the outcome. Challenged an administration once and learned the law

You aren't the only one who feels this way. I also have a strong sense of right and wrong and it bothers me that people are cheating the system and depriving other deserving students of their chance to attend a good school. I recently learned of a similar situation with one of our neighbors and had several other people tell me how common it is for people to lie and cheat to get their child into a good school district, with some specific examples of how/what has been done in the past. I think that all good schools should have some type of enforcement program to double-check on where its students are actually living. There should also be a mechanism for people to report parents who have used deceptive means in order for their child to attend a good school. I know other people may say that it isn't fair to the child of the cheating parents to report the situation, but you have to remember that another child was deprived of that spot. I have even heard of some neighborhood kids being turned away from their local schools because there was not space and that's just not fair. Playing by the rules

I moved to Albany this winter, followed the rules, filled out AFFIDAVITS as to my address, and my child immediately got into the reputedly ''most desirable'' of the public elementary schools. I have since also met one parent and child who hail from another city at the same school. I would not think of ''blowing the whistle'' on this family as 1. It is none of my business. 2. I do not know the reasons the family made the choice to place their child in this school. There could be very good, very serious reasons of the sort I know nothing about. (Think domestic violence issues, etc.) 3. The disparity between the public education offered in different cities in CA is at least very regrettable and at most classist and racist, so if a family is trying to get something better, and DECENT for their child, more power to them. When all the PUBLIC schools offer equal education then we can complain about parents who ''break the rules.'' For now, all is fair in love, and fulfilling the needs of our children. Conscientious Supporter

I think what the family is doing is wrong, but if you do anything about it, you could end up hating yourself. There are probably bigger crimes to police. Perhaps blow the whistle on our current political administration instead.

mind your own business. anon

You have no idea what is behind this family's decision to deceive the school district, and you cannot predict the outcome of turning them in. Most important to me, you cannot avoid hurting the child who had no part in making either of these adult choices. So, though I can sympathize with your concern, and no, it isn't ''fair'' that this child displaces someone whom the rules favor, it also isn't fair that this child doesn't have an alternative that is equally desirable. ALL children deserve the best schools. In life, parents make hard choices when their kids are in need. For all you know, this child may be confronting severe deprivation in some other theater of life, and this school is the parent's way of balancing the outcome for their kid. Self- righteousness about the rules is too simple a form of analysis to use in a case like this. I am in a position to know that some of the best kids at Berkeley High are members of ODA - ''Out of District Anonymous''. They are high achievers whose parents, for whatever reason, can't maintain a domicile here, but they tip the scales in terms of talent and model high achievement for all. They follow the rules (if they don't they get discovered). If they are better able to make a positive contribution to society in their adult lives because of it, I'm all for it. Try reading Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. You might change your mind about the issue. Former ODA mom of a wildly successful teen who survived a drug addicted parent thanks to BHS

As hard it is to bite your tongue, sometimes it is important to simply mind your own business. Yes, there are a lot of cheaters, frauds and pain in the butts out there and it sucks. Why some drivers don't stop for me and my double stroller, when I have the right of way is something I will never understand. And why some cashiers at my local Safeway will always act curt to me when I always am polite to them is also pretty sucky.

Oh well...Instead of sinking into their level of suckiness, I remain vigilant to crossing the street when it is my turn and being friendly to cashiers. In other words, I control my life and not others.

I say don't judge anyone. You don't know if another parent has a really bleak situation. Besides, think about karma-if you rat someone out on something that is none of your business, some stranger may rat you out in the future (like the parent you rat out will find out YOU were the ratter and HATE you in the future. Wouldn't that really suck???) Melanie

NOTE FROM MODERATOR: MANY, many subscribers wrote in to express shock and dismay at the number of people who would condone lying to get into a better school. They gave cogent and persuasive reasons to support their views. However, they didn't offer advice to the person who posted asking "should I turn this person in?" and therefore, we couldn't publish these posts. I realize this is a tough question to answer without giving opinions alongside the advice, and posts with both advice and opinion were published, but responses that only responded to the responses, and did not answer the question, were not published. I'm sorry - I know this is frustrating. See "Q&A vs. Open Discussion" at

Puhleez! MYOB. I'm curious to know if your taxes or your drivers license or your diary could stand the same scrutiny you are considering waging on someone else. I echo the majority of the prior responses on this topic which raised some really good points. And I also suggest that YOU DON'T KNOW THAT THEY LIED. We live in a ''good'' neighborhood, but had we bought a house across the street, we would be in a school that was in the top 2% in CA. (Not the best standard to measure to anymore, but that's a different topic). Instead, we were assigned to a school that is just above the no-child-left-behind cut off. That means it is really bad, but not quite bad enough to qualify for Federal help. And I pay the same property taxes that everyone else does. So we set out to work the system and we made some sacrifices and eventually transferred into a great school. And I never told a single lie to anyone...not the school, not the district, not even to another parent. And yet, it seems to be of great interest to everyone. If the district accepted the transfer, the case is closed. anon

I think it is extremely bad karma (and I don't usually use that word) to turn someone in, especially when the life you will be affecting is a child's. You are doing this for yourself, not the hypothetical child who might be turned away, and I'm not sure that a school district would turn away another child who actually does live in the district. Their deception will be found out in due course or they will suffer from always having to hide it. If you are so concerned about right and wrong, there are plenty of other ways to channel your moral aspirations. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help someone out who is is need. Be a postive role model, don't tear others down just because they are not living up to your (or their own) ideals. Nobody who knows me would describe me as a bleeding heart, but I know that there is a lot of hypocrisy in society, and you can be certain that someone out there has given you the benefit of the doubt and forgiven you even though they believed you were doing something morally wrong. You are bigger than all of this. Don't cheapen yourself with petty vindications in the name of morality. anonymous

I'm responding in part to all the responses you received. First off, I would not ''blow the whistle'' on this family due to all the reasons given by other parents. Schools in the Bay Area can be awful, and most families in this situation are just trying to get their child a decent education. However, I think it is completely valid of you to be concerned about this and wonder if you shouldn't get involved. I don't think this is completely an issue that is none of your business or the rest of the community. In fact, I would argue that it has been a lack of community (aside mostly from actual parents) that has led to such a denigration in our school systems. Whatever the reasoning, there have been too many people that have allowed our school systems to deteriorate by not supporting teachers, taxes, etc. I think the appropriate and ''morally right'' way to tackle an issue like this is to learn more about what has led to our schools' current state and get involved in trying to help all children get a decent education. While this doesn't help remedy this situation immediately, it has taken several years to get to this state. And unfortunately, it will probably take many more to correct it. Cathy

Absolutely not! It is very conceited and petty of you to think that you are suprior or it is your duty to tattle on parents who are just trying to get the best education for their kids, and an innocent child who is already probably happy there. Besides, I asked my middle school child's teacher about this, and she said that even if they do know, they don't kick a child out unless they have MAJOR behavior/grade issues, or are in some sort of special needs program that requires a lot of extra funding. Anon

I can't believe all the responses you received to ''mind your own business''. What are rules for? I would not only turn these people in, but I HAVE turned in cheaters to our school district. It can be done without giving your own name, and all the district needs is the name of the other family and they will check into it. We were able to make room for 4 families from our own neighborhood last fall! I have no tolerence for cheaters. If you don't like your local school district, then MOVE! There are plenty of places that are afforable with decent schools. Jon

I think that you certainly should let the district know what is going on since they are obviously not doing a good enough job of monitoring residency. And insist that they follow-up on your lead. That kind of cheating by people who perfectly happy to take someone else's legitimate spot is so unfair. Everyone needs to participate to put an end to it. -GN

The district is well aware that there are many out of district students in the school system, and have chosen not to do much about it. Whether or not you choose to report an out of district student may not make a difference any way. If you decide to report the family, do so anonymously for your safety.

One other consideration: Try to look at who does not gain by minding your own business. The teachers with inflated class sizes, unavailable funds for nurses in the schools, limited music and arts programs. As the parent of a special needs kid, I know there are less funds (and staff availability) because there are out of district kids using special needs resources. Enough said. Anonymous!!!!!

I see two main themes in these responses. First, that blowing the whistle will hurt the kid. Second, that the family is okay doing this because the school district where they live is lousy. I'm in the minority here, but I think they should be ratted out to the district.

First, if my kid didn't get into the school we wanted, and some other kid did whose folks lied, then that hurts MY kid. Is the out of district kid somehow entitled to LESS hurt than MY kid? Seems to me the kid from the district ought to get preference here.

Second, my wife and made a LOT of sacrifices to live in the district we do (and we chose not to make even more sacrifices to live in an even better district, say Piedmont). So my sacrifices are being sacrificed, so to speak, because I could live in a lousy district, lie, and go to a great school somewhere else. Not fair to the families in the good district, not fair to me or my kids in the long run.

It's not up to the school district to take in out of district students to right societal ills. And if it is, districts have procedures to consider accepting out of district students. THAT's the way this family should do it.

Go ahead, flame me. also moral

First, I'm sorry that so many people angrily responded to your post with ''it's none of your business''. You asked a simple question because it was nagging at you, and you got attacked. I must disagree with them, and say that sadly, it IS your business, given the way our school systems dole out slots to schools.

I wouldn't personally turn someone in, but I would be ticked off about knowing of someone who ''hopped the fence''. I am currently sacrificing an awful lot to live in a house I don't own or like, simply to live in the right zone for our child's school (and it is worth it). So it steams me when I hear of others who ARE cheating the system, because they are not willing to bite the bullet and sacrifice as others have to play fair. And while they may be doing it ''for their children'', they are also sending their kids the message that it's ok to skirt the rules if it suits them. Not setting a great example, in my mind.

However, one thing occurred to me that was not mentioned by other posters - that is, depending on your school district, once you have attended a school for 2 years, you can move out of the zoned area and still attend. Maybe that is the situation for that family?

Don't feel bad for feeling uneasy. It's a shame that our schools are so messed up, but you should not be made the heavy for recognizing an unethical situation. sign me Playing Fair

FROM THE MODERATOR: We're straying into open discussion here, rather than answering the question asked. This will be the last week of posts on this topic, and please do try to answer the question (which was "should I tell the school about what is going on?") and not make it so hard on the poor moderator by writing intelligent, thoughtful comments that don't answer the question...

Hello, when I read the first batch of responses, I was extremely saddened and annoyed. I felt you were unkindly attacked for simply asking a question. I am astounded not only at the number of people who condone lying, but are so emphatic that there point of view is the only valid one, and that if you don't follow their point of view you are not compassionate.

Wow. In our school we have people in our own area who are not able to attend our school. It just isn't fair to the people who sacrafice like crazy to be able to move into a certain area. I know one mom, the only reason she works is so they can live in a better school area, now is that fair to her?

People also talked about how you might be hurting the child by having him go to another school. Well I think the child is being far more hurt by living a lie and being taught that it is ok to cheat to get what you want. I know someone who lies to get in another school's area, and their child cannot have play dates at their house, can never get picked up or dropped off for any other activities, has to lie when they 'practice' writing their addresses, etc.

Anyway, my advice is that if you know of some particular circumstance or reason that makes sense to you, about why they would do this, then keep quiet. But if there is no good reason, and they are flat out cheating, I would send an anonymous note to the school secretary and principal. anon

This is to the original poster. I just want to say how sorry I am to see how many people have chosen to attack you simply for asking the question you did. Like you, I get very angry when I hear about families that have lied to get their child into a school they otherwise would not have gotten into. Although I don't think I would go so far as to turn these families in myself, I'm fully sympathetic with anyone who would choose to do so, and not very sympathetic towards the families that might get turned in.

I say this as a single parent with a not very high income living in a not very good school district myself. I don't think it's fair that, because I'm an honest person who would never dream of lying to get my son into a better school, that my only options are to either apply to private schools and pray for a miraculously large scholarship, or pray for an equally miraculously LEGAL transfer into a better school, or to move to a better (and more expensive) school district. However, that is what I will do if I have to, because I could never live with myself if I did otherwise -- and I don't want to teach my son that it is acceptable to lie and cheat to get what one wants. It makes me sad and angry to see so many people condoning such behavior. So, I just wanted you to know that I support you completely, and that I don't think you should feel one iota of guilt if you do turn the cheating family in. Diane

This discussion has really touched a nerve..... How can you blame anyone for attempting to give their child a good education? Where does social justice fit in this equation? People in third-world nations fight over scraps of food, and we fight over scraps of education. Instead of telling eachother what to do, how about telling our politicians how to better serve ALL the children in this state?

You can start by educating yourself about the problem, before attempting to solve it. Prop 13 certainly leveled the playing left ALL the schools POOR....but communities like Orinda survive it well for two reasons....the school draws on the families for money (they ask for a flat-out donation of $1,000 per year and then fundraise on top of that!) and they benefit from all the FREE LABOR they receive from parents who are generally highly educated (a couple of attorneys formed the non-profit that fundraises for the school). If you are not educated or rich and you buy into an ''affordable'' neighborhood, you are essentially screwed as far as getting all the benefits of a good education. (I know that family influences a lot, but that is another argument).

Please take a moment to check out this intelligent explanation of California schools: First to Worst: Here is a quick excerpt.....

''First to Worst explores the roots of California's current education crisis, tracing it to the anti-tax movement of the 1970's and 80's and to civil rights lawsuits that aimed to equalize school spending but resulted instead in disastrous funding limits on schools. First to Worst makes clear that the problems with California's schools go beyond facilities and funding. Years of state intrusion into classroom teaching produced educational disasters in the form of teaching fads. Today, California is trying to regain its footing. It has developed high academic standards for all students and a new system of accountability, but academic progress has been slow. (Running time: 56 minutes) (more info) ios

Ok, so you got a lot of responses on this one. Some saying to mind your own business and some saying to turn the bastards in, but do it in a sneaky anonymous way. Well, my personal feeling is to mind your own business, as, have others have mentioned, I'm sure you haven't lived a perfect life either. However, if you do decide to rat out the family in question, don't be a sneaky back stabber. Go talk to the parents and confirm that they are indeed cheating the system and have not enrolled their child honestly. Then you need to tell them that you're going to have to report them to the school system because what they're doing just isn't fair. If you're going to do something like this, step up to the plate already and be honest with yourself and everyone else about what you're doing. Don't go hiding behind anonymous tip lines and point fingers - own up to what you're doing. - own your actions

Using a relative's address to get special ed

Jan 2006

We have been having a very difficult time getting special ed. services in our (not so great) school district and are considering using the address of a relative who lives in a much better district. We're well aware of the ethical issues but when our child is suffering, it's hard to be a purist. Just wondering what others' experience has been (were you caught, what were the consequences, would you do it again, was it worth the stress, how vigilant are the better districts, etc.) Thanks for your input. anonymous

I have heard Albany has ''verification officers'' who will sometimes come to the home and look that the child has a bed there, etc. but don't know of this in other ''good'' districts. I think it would be firstly preferable to get a legit. transfer but if that is not possible I would try it for your child's sake.... anon

Use your relative's address to send your child to a school where they will receive the support they need (and deserve). Your relative is paying property tax to support the public schools so don't worry about ''cheating''. Get as involved as possible (actual physical support is worth loads more than $) and be prepared to go the extra mile to make sure your child gets together whenever possible with friends from the new school. If other parents ask, say you got a transfer. I fully support parents and caregivers taking every opportunity to make sure their kids get the support they need. They only get one chance. I volunteered at a public school in a working class neighborhood and was so disheartend by how many truly bright kids were slipping through the cracks because their parents did not know how to work the system. And, yes it is a in well to do school districts get support and kids in poorer districts do not. mom

I don't think that it is appropriate for you to ask for advice in this newsletter about doing something that is unethical and illegal. Surely there must be a Parents Network policy about this.

My husband is letting a friend use our address

Dec 2004

My husband told a friend that he could use our address so that the friend's child could go to our neighborhood school. I have misgivings about this, but the deed is done. I refuse to outright lie to anyone who may ask if this child lives in our house, but for the sake of my marriage and my husband's friendship, I am ok with closing my eyes to the whole situation. What I want to know is what will this involve for me (besides the guilt of breaking the rules)? I have visions of the principal knocking on our door asking to see the child's room. Is this realistic? Do I have to let him in? What else can happen? Am I worrying for nothing? anon

hello, i personally believe that allowing your friends to use your address for local school enrollment is a very dishonest thing to do. if the local school's class ''fills'' then children who live in your neighborhood (move into the neighborhood in late summer) would be ''bumped'' to a neighboring school until they could be accomodated. please reconsider. people make real estate decisions for many reasons, education very often being a priority.

Should we use my mom's address for school?

August 2004

I need advice on selecting a school for my son. Our neighborhood school didn't score very well. My mother's neighborhood school is ranked very high; however, I would have to lie to enroll my son. It comes down to what I am willing to sacrifice in order to place him in a better school. Not only will it take a little more time to take him to school, what messages am I giving him? That lying is o.k., that a better education is only available to those with means? My son is a good student, I'm sure he would flourish anywhere. I really want to keep him in the neighborhood, my husband doesn't want his child to suffer as a result of my sense of social justice. Any thoughts? Trying to walk the walk

Without knowing which schools you are trying to decide between, I would advise you to think long and hard before you compare schools based solely on test scores.

I would ask parents in the neighborhood what they think of the school, would try to arrange a tour of the classrooms so you can see how good/inspired the teachers are, what the classrooms look like, and would try to find out how much parental involvement there is in the school. An active PTA can supplement what California's cash-strapped schools are no longer providing by covering new playground equipment, paying for a music teacher, field trips, etc.

We go to our neighborhood school in El Cerrito (Harding) and have found that the teachers have an average of 15-20 years of experience, there is an active parent population, and we love the network of close playmates, and the feeling of really being part of the neighborhood. Many of the families walk to school too.

What parents looking at test scores often don't realize is that the academic support they provide at home, their own involvement in the school, and their own income/education level are a better predictor of success than how the kid sitting next to theirs scores on a standardized test. anon

Well, I can tell you from the perspective of an Albany parent and homeowner who sees numerous parents cheat the system just to keep their child in Albany schools, even though they live in Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond, I resent it. Our schools are overcrowded because of people who think that they can cheat the system and rationaize it by saying they are just looking after their child's best interest. Sorry, either sacirfice something else and send your child to private school, get involved in your local schools or move. I pay property taxes so I can send my kids to school here. Why should I subsidize cheaters? Albany Parent

Yes, it is wrong to lie about your address to get into a school. Period. If you want to know why first hand, just get yourself on the waiting list at that school and curse the cheaters who cut in line in front of you by lying.

Then, look at those ''poor test scores'' your local school is posting, particularly the ones that tell how your subgroup is doing. It may not look so bad, then! Very often schools that have high minority populations show test scores that reflect just that - poor people do less well on standardized tests. But non-socioeconomically disadvantaged students may be doing just fine, and benefitting from a wider social experience.

Yes, that was the case with my kids - now in high school and burning through AP classes. Don't get sucked into the ''right school'' vortex. Look deeper - and don't cheat. not the ''good school'' mom

It depends on the school (not the test score). My kids went to public schools in Berkeley, and I would feel completely comfortable about any of the Berkeley schools regardless of test scores. There are a lot of fantastic teachers and very active and committed parents. You really have to look at the school, and the teachers, and the principal, and talk to the parents. On the other hand, if I visited the school (more than once!) and saw a lot of out of control classrooms, teachers screaming at kids, kids running rampant and hurting each other, trash and graffiti everywhere and no parents anywhere, then yeah, I would do anything to keep my kid out of there, including using my mom's address. Sometimes extreme conditions call for extreme measures. Berkeley Mom

The decision to use an address other your child's own is wrong and may result in another child's inability to attend his or her neighborhood school. This very situation happend to our family. At the time we went to enroll our son for his kindergarten year (at a school three blocks from our home), we were told that all classes were full. After much heated discussion with the district superintendent and school principal, it was found that several children who had been signed up for kindergarten were in fact non-residents, and had deceived the district by using an address of a relative.

If you check back with your mother's neighborhood school after the school year begins, they may have a spot for your child. California law states that you do have the right to enroll your child in a school other than your neighborhood school if space is available. I wish you the best of luck. anon

if your mother lives in Albany they have actual officers check homes for residency claims and the child must have a bedroom/ markable space in the house. I think the worst part would be that your child would have to lie to teachers/ friends about where he lives or if administration heard otherwise he could be ''kicked out'' midyear or at any juncture in his schooling and have to start somewhere else. Also consider it might be isolating for him to be one of the few kids who doesn't live There. if your schools are poorly rated have you also checked the level of parent participation and reputation of teachers from parents who have sent there kids there? (low scores can indicate more children with non-native English speaking parents and not always a lowsy school.) Or consider private if it is at all possible. or rent a place near mom? good luck. anon

Don't worry about walking the walk. I say go for it. Your child's education is the most important. But first check both of the schools. Test scores mean nothing if the school is not a good match for your child. How will 'you' fit in with the other parents? Is the school in your neighborhood safe? I know it sounds strange to think of that but with what can happen in any school right now that is a factor. I have a friend who's children go to a so called good testing school here in the east bay and her daugther is unhappy and picked on. It is not always the good schools that are the best for your children. Also if it is in the same district you may have some of the troubles starting up at the ''good'' school at anytime. It isn't cut and dried but if the high scoring school is the better option all around I would do it for your child. School vouchers are sounding better everyday...... Good luck in what ever you decide Cristina

Dear Trying to Walk the Walk,

I am a public school teacher with experience in many different types of schools, and I have a few thoughts on your situation.

A good school is made up of much more than test scores, but the test scores are (unfortunately) the most obvious and public form of comparison. It is important to understand ''low'' scores and what they mean. For example, are scores low because there is a significant English language learner population at your school? I don't think it is a fair system to give a difficult and intimidating test to young children who are just learning English, but that's what the state of California does. If this is the case with your neighborhood school, you might find cultural richness and variety there that you might not find at a school with higher scores. Personally, I would be much more concerned about low test scores that were due to other factors.

Similarly, are scores high because testing is the main focus of the school, at the cost of other programs like art, music, science, etc? Until last year, the state-mandated tests were not even aligned with the state-mandated standards--the test was an off-the-shelf test that could be used by any state or school that purchased it! (Now there are two tests used to come up with the API scores--one is standards-based, and one is not.) So, what we are required to teach is not necessarily tested, or tested well. What happens in lots of schools is that the standards are taught, and then there is lots of test prep. I don't think this is a good way for children to spend their childhoods.

So, I would resist the urge to just go by test scores when evaluating schools (although it is hard, because it seems like that's what everyone is talking about). Go to your neighborhood school and take a tour. Meet the teachers if possible and see if they are caring, competent individuals. Meet the principal and see if you like him or her. Ask about staff turnover--happy teachers make happy classrooms, and happy teachers tend to stay in the profession and in the same school. Talk to parents whose children are currently enrolled in the school and ask lots of questions. If you have the time and inclination, get involved in your local school before your child actually enters kindergarten. Your school should be happy to have you help--if they are not, I'd take that as a bad sign. Get REAL, first-hand information, and don't rely on gossip or '' I heard...''---no one is doing anyone a service by just randomly bad-mouthing our schools, but it happens all the time. Sure, there are bad things happening, but there is a lot of good happening too, so try to find out the whole story before making your decision.

As far as sending your son to the other school...sometimes it can be hard for a kid to be the only non-neighborhood kid in a school. If I were in your situation, I also would share your concern about giving your kid the message that lying is okay to get what you want. However, that said, public schools are very tricky and frustrating to navigate, and if I had investigated both schools fully and decided that my neighborhood school was unacceptable, and I could not see any opportunity for positive change to occur there, I would indeed lie in order for my child to go to another school.

I used to teach in a highly-ranked school that I wouldn't want my kid to go to (focus was entirely on test scores--tons of pressure--a terrible administrator--not a healthy place for a kid, in my opinion), and I also taught in an underperforming school that I wouldn't want him to go to either (extreme school-wide behavior problems, and another bad principal). But I've also taught in several schools of various rankings that I think would be great places for my kid. I think it really comes down to knowing what is important to you, what is important to your family, and knowing your child really well.

Good luck with your decision, and thanks for reading my opinions. A Teacher

I know everyone means well by his or her advice but I am very troubled by some of the posts trying to impose what they believe is the proper ethical duty in school selection. Unless I am mistaken, the poster's parents may have been paying taxes for other people's children to go to school in their district for some time. I suspect also, that the grandparents may have a very close relationship with their grandchild and perhaps, the child already has some friends in that neighborhood. Either way, the assumption that school children would automatically shun anyone who is not a close neighbor from their area is scary to me. I agree with the posters who have listed various factors to consider in determining the right educational district for your child. However, if after weighing all the factors, you still want to go ahead with a transfer, you might also contact the district to see whether they are accepting transfers. Good luck with your decision. Sometimes we forget that it is hard being a parent. annonymous

I am one of the persons who originally responded to this and I see whoever wrote in ''troubled'' about the postings may have misunderstood mine or some other of the responses. I had written that the child might or could (not ''automatically'') have issues or isolation with not being from the same neighborhood. The poster originally wrote in feeling an ethical dilemma and I think was trying to consider all the sides of the issue. One way the isolation could play out might not be until later in say, middle school, if the case were something like most of the classmates going skiing, and on expensive vacations and being in a different income bracket. And the poster mentioned not wanting the child to learn that lies get you what you want and depending on the school district the child would have to not tell people that he really lives somewhere else. I see this as something to consider in the child's interest. I am sorry that the person who wrote in recently finds this to be too moralistic, but I think the responses seemed to me to be appropriate to the advice wanted.... anon

My friend's nanny wants to use my address for school

July 2004

I have a good friend whose nanny is trying to get her child in to our school system in Oakland. My friend has asked if I would allow her nanny to use our address so her daughter can attend the local junior high for my neighborhood. My friend lives too far for the nanny's daughter to attend her district. I have a young son not yet in school and would not want to risk his ability to attend school or risk any type of legal ramificiations. Has anyone done this before? Are there risks involved? I think this has been posted before but couldn't find it in the archives. Thanks! Scared to get involved

First, it is unethical to use another's address to get into a school district. It is setting a bad example of dishonesty to your child. Do you want your child to grow up thinking it is OK to lie to gain personal advantage? And even more, do you want to help a parent who is unethical take advantage of you and your child as well as the other children in your district? Oakland and Berkeley school districts are strapped for cash, and this child would be stealing resources from others (including you!) that are paying their fair share.

Second, I think districts are cracking down on this practice. Now I think they require a utility bill in the parent's name, not just an address. Please say no

If I were you, regardless of what you decide, I would share with your friend that her request made you feel uncomfortable. Tell her you appreciate that she wants to help this person, but that she might have considered the ramifications of the request before asking you to get involved.

Now, to the question at hand. In Oakland there is only one decent junior high school -- Montera -- and for folks with incomes that don't put them in the montclair area, the others don't even come close. This school could be a real shot for this kid and you could contribute to a success story. You will reap the dividends of that decision some day. On the other hand, this may not be where you want to do your charity work. You don't know this person and you may not feel comfortable helping her in this manner. That is perfectly OK, too and you should not feel guilty. No decision is wrong, but keep this in mind: Don't let ''fear'' rule you; do what you think is right because it's right, not because you fear some retribution. At the risk of sounding political, I think we suffer as a society because people don't want to ''get in trouble.'' Let your conscience be your guide.

P.S. I was in the King school district and my mother had to petition to get me into Montera (many years ago).. begging, cajoling, threatening... In the end, I got in and it certainly changed the trajectory of my education track (skyline, dartmouth (ab), ucla (two masters') ). Good luck. -- poor kid done good

Hello, I think using an address other than your own for schooling purposes is dishonest. You risk being caught. Also consider that other children who live in the district (especially those who move into the area the summer prior to the school year) may have to go to another school if families such as yours dishonestly attend their school district. Consider moving to an area where you want your child in school. An honest citizen

My friend wants to use my address and I'm worried

June 2003

A friend asked if she could use my address so that her child could try to get into a school near my home. I'm worried that, among other things, there may be legal consequences if caught. If someone has some information about penalties, I could cite it as a reason to not lie. Thanks.

A good friend should not ask a friend to do something unethical. Asking to use your address for her child's enrollment in school is wrong on a couple of points. First, the community where you live offers the financial and other support that makes the school system attractive (I am assuming that this is a case in which the friend lives in a district considered less ''desirable'' than yours). Your friend wants to take advantage of this without providing the support herself. Second, the child (and you, and your children perhaps) will be assigned the burden of sustaining a lie about where the friend's child actually lives. What if people want to plan playdates or birthday parties and need the child's real address? Or if the child wants to invite people home to play? Or if someone simply asks where the child lives? Is the child expected to lie? Are you? I regret the realities (or perceived realities) that make this practice of lying part of living in the Bay Area -- I wish all of our schools had family and community and state support and that our children were all in fine schools. But resources are very tight, and some of us are more willing (not only more able!) to sacrifice for our schools than others. Your friend should understand if you say ''I don't feel comfortable lying about this.''
a parent who gives a lot to her district

That is a sticky one. I am in a school district that is very strict about residency. They don't just require an address, but a current PG&E bill as well a copy of your title or rental agreement. I'm sure your district is the same. I don't think it's a very good idea for your friend to set a precedent with her child that it's o.k. to lie to get what you want. As her child gets older, she will know that she doesn't live in the district and so will the parents of her friends, when they come over for play dates. It might be hard, but I think you could tell her that it's just too much responsibility. She could apply for an inter district transfer to the school. Kindergarten Mom and Teacher

Please don't allow your friend to use your address. There are many (political, funding, getting caught) reasons not to do this, but the most important is that it's so damaging to be involved in a lie. It's such a bad model for your friend's child, too. I've known more than a few people who have done this over the years. Sooner or later they are explaining to their children about ''OK lying'' and ''Not OK lying,'' and everyone in their social circle is involved. You can refuse to do this

there could possibly be consequences if the school district found out ... but also you may have to PROVE the address by a utility bill, landlord, mortgage, etc. school districts know all the tricks so don't think you can trick them. mom in cv

PLEASE don't let someone talk you into using your address for their child's school. It is both unethical and unfair, and in doing so you are helping soneone commit fraud. The issue should not be will I get caught? but, Is it right? and the answer is NO. In a world of ever murky ethics, where just about everyone, from the President to the mayor to the lady next door is able to rationalize improper behavior, it's important to take a stand. Do the right thing - say no. Don't help people raise their children to be liars by setting a bad example early on. tired of liars

How about: ''That doesn't work for me.''
In life, we all have a choice to work on the basis of ''principle'' or ''personality.'' Most people work on the basis of personality. They think, ''Well, because you are my friend (spouse, neighbor, relative, etc.) I'll do this for you. Mother Nature doesn't work in personality. If you go out in the woods and stand under a tree about to drop its limb, the tree doesn't refrain from dropping the limb because it's you standing there. If you are there, it drops the limb, just as it would on anyone standing there. The more we work on the basis of principle, the better our lives work--we're in harmony with Mother Nature. The way you know if you are in principle is to ask: ''Am I willing to do what is requested by this person for everyone who asks?'' If the answer is ''no,'' to do the requested action will be operating in personality, not principle. Good luck! Ilene

I don't think you should let your friend use your address since it clearly makes you uncomfortable. However, because I allowed a friend to use my address I wanted to weigh in on the other side of the argument. First, I offered use of my address to her; she didn't request it. Her son was being beat up. Twice in fourth grade, and once in fifth. There were syringes on her child's school playground and drug dealers approached him frequently. This is a quiet, shy, art-loving kid, who's tall for his age, and his mother absolutely could not afford to move into a better neighborhood (although she's saving to do so). I don't regret my decision in the least. He thrived in the new school. He's become a math whiz and gotten great mentors who've fostered his art. He's not getting hit anymore. This one child is clearly benefitting by my lie. I know it's wrong to lie -- but it's also wrong to give the teachers in MY public school pink slips while we're spending millions to bomb other countries. I justify my actions by telling myself that we are the only people on our block in public schools -- every other family on our block with children attends private schools and most residents have no children, so in the weird system of Berkeley public schools, her son is actually bringing more dollars into my child's school. One note: you are financially vulnerable by giving your friend your address -- if this isn't someone you know very well it would be easy for her to take advantage of you, use your address for credit cards, etc. My friend is near and dear and I trust her completely, but don't do it unless you're in the same boat.
Hate the system; love my friend's son

I was surprised by all of the replies that supported the idea that you should NOT help your friend by having them use your address. My thoughts (though i don't remember your original posting) are that you should be well informed as to what info your friend needs to 'borrow' from you and what will happen if you both get caught. Yes, it's definately 'lying' but i think that with the inequities in districting and education there is a 'flip side' to that ethical bantering and moralistic principling. Not everyone gets an equal chance and you may be helping someone who will get that chance and thrive. let your conscience decide.

I let an acquaintance use my address in Berkeley and I don't regret it. She was a single mom whose kids had grown up in the BUSD, but she had to move to a neighborhood in Oakland with a really bad school when her last child was a sophomore. She requested but did not receive permission from the BUSD to keep her child at Berkeley High for two more years. I disn't think this was fair, and I knew that her kid would not survive at the high school in their new neighborhood. She had lived at my house briefly so we just "extended" the rental agreement. Her son finished out high school and is in college now. I think he would have dropped out of school if he had gone to the school in Oakland. Just to let you know, we did get an unannounced visit from a BUSD compliance officer. We were not at home at the time, so they left a card. But if you do this, you should make sure you have a room in your house where this child stays when he is in school. Anonymous of course