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Moral Dilemma--BUSD Bully who doesn't live in Berkeley

April 2012

We have a bully at our elementary school. The behavior has been getting increasingly worse over the last three years, progressing from verbal, relational bullying (rumor spreading, name calling, ridicule, exclusion from groups and games, lunchroom demands) to now physical bullying. More than one child has suffered victimization. Last year teachers were alerted and the behavior improved briefly, but has been much worse again this year. The administration and counselors are now involved. The parents of the bully are professional and relatively affluent, but they are busy with careers, and are really not involved at school. The child who bullies spends a lot of time in after-school care.

Now, here's the moral dilemma: It appears that this family does not live in Berkeley. Given the drain on school resources, lack of involvement of the parents, and ongoing problems being created for other students and families--does it make sense to alert the administration to the fact that they may not be legally enrolled? I should also mention that they are taking up an English-speaking spot in the popular Spanish Immersion program.

I've read all the old posts about this illegal enrollment issue and see that the preponderance of voices is on the side of keeping mum (''karma'' is cited)--but isn't this set of circumstances extenuating? Should residency/enrollment status be raised as a factor in dealing with the bullying issue? What about just talking it over confidentially with the school administration? The parents of the victim kids are conflicted over this. (signed) BUSD Bystander/Karmic Dummy


I would SO report! This is different. You're not reporting b/c they're ''cheating'' by not being resident, instead you're using the loophole to take care of a menace! Perfect.

I had a similar moral dilemma when one of my neighbors (who was undocumented) was using heroin, abusing alcohol, molesting his teenage daughter (or so I heard from another neighbor, well after the fact), and yelling at (and hitting?) his wife and kids. I considered reporting him to INS (CPS had already done nothing, as you can imagine), simply to get rid of this awful man. I felt similarly torn. (Although now, many years later, it seems like a no-brainer). I didn't end up needing to, though. He kept getting deported all on his own! And then (finally!) he was gone for good.

I say, use this *tool* to get rid of this awful bully! It's a means to an end. Your karma will be GOOD karma, because you'll be helping many children out by doing this. ully Buster


First, your child's experience mirrors ours (in Albany), although a decade ago. Bully girl in elementary school, clueless parents (also professionals--father is a psychologist!--who blamed others rather than taking a closer look at their own bully daughter). I am sure many parents will know how you feel and will sympathize with you.

But...

1. If this child does not live in Berkeley, do not assume that the family lied to get in. The child could be at the school on a legal transfer, especially if a parent works in Berkeley.

2. In any school, whether it be for bullying, cheating, doing something illegal...when a child is kicked out, they have to go SOMEWHERE. So, what we are doing is transferring our ''problem'' to someone else; we are putting off the problem child onto some other school and some other families. I don't think this is a very successful or a very fair solution, for anyone.

3. You are right to talk to the administration. This child needs help, and the parents need to check back in. The notorious bully girl from Albany (everyone knew her name, and the parents STILL did not acknowledge that there was a problem) had some intervention from teachers and admin, but not enough. I agree with you that there needs to be serious intervention and that there needs to be consequences for the negative and harmful behavior. But, pushing this problem onto other families in other districts does not seem like the answer. Been there, too


I would blow the whistle on them. Bullying has to end
There is no harm in alerting BUSD administrators to the possibility that this family may not be legally enrolled in the school district. It seems you have already tried other ways for resolving this problem, and the situation is getting worse.

As for the karma issue, ask yourself who is in the moral wrong here? Parents who lie about their residency status to enroll their children illegally in a school district cannot claim the moral high ground. Their karma is to be discovered and sent back to their own school district because they are dishonest. This isn't a murky situation, and people who tell you to look the other way about this issue are contributing to the errosion of community standards by encouraging dishonesty. Cheaters Shouldn't Prosper


I think you can let the principal know but I am not sure if it should be anonymous - that seems to be more of the ethical question to me. I am not in Berkeley but in Alameda and by some folks accounting (not sure of accuracy) if all those who did not live here did not somehow get into the schools we'd have significantly less crowding and budget issues. Given the state of schools, I think it's a big deal to get into a school where you are not paying for it (ie thru taxes). I do not think they will be asked to leave mid-year but you may return to school without the problem. And I think given the situation, that makes it even more of an issue. And I can totally understand the parents of the kids who have been bullied not wanting to do it. Keep in mind the principal may already know and not be dealing with it for some other reason. perhaps a group of parents can jointly let the proper authorities know - and that way it's not just one family. Good luck - it is a tough situation. Take care
I would not out this family. I expect that Berkeley has more resources to help this child, and the bullied children, than the district that he/she would be booted back to. Although they appear affluent, it is so hard to know the family's financial and emotional status -- they could be very stressed and struggling. Every child deserves a good education, whether or not the family can afford to buy or rent in a good school zone. There are bullies in all schools, and this needs to be dealt with, for the long-term, for our society. Removal from the BUSD is not appropriate. However, it seems that removal from Spanish immersion could be an appropriate school response -- academic demands are higher and there is less space for behavior issues. anon
I don't have a problem in general with kids from out of the district attending BUSD schools. BUT kids should not have to endure bullying. I strongly believe that you would be doing the right thing by reporting this child to the BUSD administration. Actually I was in the exact same situation a few years ago and I did report the kid to BUSD. It took some prodding, but they finally followed up and the kid had to leave the district. The family had the funds to put this child directly into a private school, so I didn't feel guilty on any fronts. Please stand up for the kids being bullied. been there
It is my understanding that there is an 'unwritten' moral code that exists that says that kids who are 'illegal aliens' (aka, kids attending berkely schools whose parents do not reside in berkeley) are somewhere between welcomed and tolerated AS LONG AS they do not make nuisances of themselves. Basically, if they are enjoying the education, and being a productive member of the community, they should stay, because we all benefit from one anothers presence, and, really, everyone just wants the best for their kids.

But once you are the source of trouble and expense and much administrative time, angst and worry-- well, if you didn't break any 'written' code, you sure as hell broke the unwritten code. Where I grew up everyone said 'don't ever cause trouble so that they have to send a letter home (to the address that doesn't exist)'

Tell the principal that they are out of district (they might have an interdistrict transfer--unlikely, but possible) and let the principal know that you are also sending the same email to the school district.

All for raising all kids (but only dealing with Berkeley's poorly behaved children)


Remember: although this child is a bully, this bully is still a child !

Clearly, these bully/parents are bullying a whole school with a false social lie that ''telling'' is somehow wrong ! Don't be fooled: doing what is honorable and truthful is always right ! It is not possible that this bully/child does not know his bully/parents are cheating the school system. Who knows what else these bully/parents are cheating about ?

Knowing that his bully/parents are cheating and seeing, demonstrated, again and again, every day, that no person has been willing to stand up for morality and honesty, is teaching this bully/child that cheating is ''OK.'' Worse, what you parents are allowing is teaching this bully/child that there is no safe structure that he can depend on, that there is no person who cares enough about him to TELL THE TRUTH.

Unless and until SOMEONE makes clear to the bully/child that there are consequences to choices everyone makes (demonstrated when his bully/parents have to ''face the music''), this bully/child will continue on a path toward a very sad future ! ''Telling'' will HELP this sad confused bully/child !

Do what's right ! For this child's sake !


I'm sorry to hear that your child is being bullied.

BUSD has some serious, self-inflicted problems in this area. On one hand, District policy concerning _legal_ out-of-district transfer students is very clear: they must meet behavioral, academic, and attendance standards or they will lose the privilege of the transfer permit, which must be renewed annually.

For fraudulently enrolled students, there is no such expectation because the District participates in the fiction that these kids are Berkeley students in order to boost enrollment or for other ''social justice'' reasons (actual justice not guaranteed).

Parents who have tried to report fraudulently enrolled students, which is encouraged in other East Bay Districts and in San Francisco, have been rebuffed by the District.

With respect to the TWI programs, some parents have speculated that BUSD may be ''hiding'' a higher % of discipline problems at those schools ''since no one questions lower performance scores at a school where so many students' first language is not English.'' http://tinyurl.com/6lknkam In some cases, the District uses ''behavioral trades'' to handle discipline problems that should properly have triggered expulsion: http://tinyurl.com/7uf5y8o

Back in November, BUSD sought input on a draft anti-bullying policy that proposed spending $$ to counsel the bully. I asked them to include enrollment bed checks to verify that bullies are really BUSD's problem before we make those expenditures: http://tinyurl.com/7v9gobo I am not holding my breath -- the Board has already ignored repeated requests for an agenda item on enrollment fraud (we have a petition with remedies and many signatures), even though such requests must be granted per state law.

So, what can you do? Join the Berkeley Accountable Schools Project: http://tinyurl.com/7cg5wxz Sign our petition: http://tinyurl.com/75bp99o Contact the staff member who circulated the anti-bullying policy draft and press her for ideas. (follow link above for her name) Contact Francsisco Martinez in Admissions and ask him to investigate a case of enrollment fraud. Start calling Board members or use public comment at a board meeting to make yourself heard. Squeaky wheels get the grease!


Go for it.

As a previous poster noted, there are behavioral criteria for being in the BUSD schools, and most have stringent anti-bullying programs in place. You document, document, document (and if this child is as much of a menace as you describe, it'll be easy), you bring it to the teacher, principal and so on up the line. Intercurrently, bring it to the BUSD attendance/enrollment dept, who are historically very wishy-washy about this issue, but who recently have been slapped around enough by the local media to finally sit up and take notice and might even move on it!

Im sorry that this obviously troubled kid has clueless parents (and it's almost always true, regardless of race or class or legal residence), but your child has a right to an education free of being bullied and the schoool has a responsibility to make sure that this is the case. This is NOT a karmic issue.

My daughter was bullied and i swung into action for her, and surprise! The parents thought the kids should 'ummmm...y know, work it owt themselves...''-PUT THE BONG DOWN AND PARENT! That's why it's best to go thru the school system, which should get the parents' attention, whether their little snowflake is in the district legally or not. -do the right thing.


I wanted to follow up on my post last week. I knew of a bully Albany girl (now grown and living in a different city); she was not ever kicked out. So, not entirely the same, but still, this family has the benefit of hindsight. I still know the family and asked the mom of this now grown child what SHE thought of the post. She said that her family had been going through so much at the time, having her daughter move schools would have been horrible for everyone. She did not recognize that her daughter was a bully, and only now, looking back, can she see what was happening and what others were thinking. She said that what would have helped was if the school had worked with her AND had given her assistance with the school ''girl'' dynamics. Even with her and her husband working in the field of psychiatry, neither of them could recognize their own daughter's troubles in school. It is very difficult to get parents on board if they do not recognize their child's actions when they are not around.

I think it is harsh to kick a troubled child out of school. Can you try talking to the school and forcing them into action before taking any action yourself in terms of contacting the district? It is hard for families to acknowledge that their kid is a bully. I would leave that as a last resort, and try to see if the child can get some help first (maybe don't give the parents a choice.). Only then, would I contact the district. Hindsight


I was horrified to see the responses from this post. These two issues should be completely separate, and yes, it is immoral to mix the two (which is what you were sensing in the first place), and now you have BPN members helping to justify what you knew was not right in the first place.

Bullying is not okay and should be addressed (regardless of a child's zip codes). This ''code'' that ''they can stay in our schools unless they become a nuisance'' is horrifying and disgusting. -all children deserve love


To the OP,

A BASP member reminded me that the Berkeley Patch ran an article on BUSD's request for comments on the anti-bullying policy, citing our call for residency verification. http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/opinion-don-t-spend-money-on-illegal-out-of-district-school-bullies

There was also a poll, in which 60 out of 62 respondents said they favored sending out-of-district bullies to their home districts. Again, note that current policy calls for transfer permit revocation when a legal transfer is a behavior, academic, or attendance problem. -Berkeley Accountable Schools Project Editor


Well, the bitter side of me says TELL; the moral side of me says DON'T TELL. Here is our reality (yours and mine): There is that one bully -- that one notorious kid that EVERY parent knows about, that EVERY teacher knows about, that EVERYONE talks about -- in every grade level in every school in every district. No matter where you go, and you say, ''I have a child at X school in X grade,'' the response is, ''OMG! Do you know a kid named X?'' So, IF this child is in the district illegally, and IF the district/school is willing to kick them out, there is another bully to take his or her place. My child has attended schools in Albany and in Berkeley, as well a private school. In each school, we were pulled aside the first week of school and warned by other parents about THAT kid, the bully. Public or Private, Albany or Berkeley...there is a bully in every grade. So, what happens next year, when your child encounters the next bully, and you can't kick that one out? I suppose this is a long way of saying that although I would lean towards telling, there is no guarantee that the school will kick the family out. Many districts or schools will work with a family once they find out their status, or request paperwork, or something. You may not get what you want. Better to find a way to help your child and help the bully, because next year, MY kid might be in that bully's class, and *I* will have to deal with it! -No shortage of bullies
Reading responses to what has been defined as a ''moral question'' of whether-or-not to speak out about a bully illegally registered in a Berkeley school where the bully must know his/her parents have lied to get him/her into a Berkeley school.

As far back as research into how a human mind works, research has demonstrated that people get stressed and people ''do bad things'' when there are no rules and/or rules are not clearly defined and fairly enforced. For as long as ''psychology''or ''psychiatry'' have existed, published peer-reviewed research has repeatedly demonstrated that a child cannot feel safe when there are no rules that the child can count on, simple rules, simple rules clearly defined, simple rules clearly defined that are enforced the same way every time.

By now, it is no surprise to anyone that simple rules, enforced the same way every time make for both a safe-feeling society and an actually safe society. (The same holds true for all ''trainable'' beings - dogs - cats - monkeys - mice - dolphins - lab rats - honey bees - etc.)

Not having a clearly defined structure for behaviors makes people ''crazy'' !

So, maybe the real ''moral question'' is: Is BUSD complicit in creating this child to behave as a bully in Berkeley schools (1) by not having simple rules clearly documented, and (2) by not enforcing those simple rules clearly documented, again and again, exactly the same way for all students ?

-Just saying'


Establishing Berkeley Residency

April 2009

I'm looking for help and any suggestions the community might have to offer. My daughter is graduating from 8th grade and really wants to attend Berkeley High. We've visited the school and we think it would be a great fit for her. We had plans to buy a place in Berkeley and we have looked earnestly for months now. Changes in the market, financing issues and the like has curtailed this search. I am now faced with finding a place to rent while finding someone to rent my house in Emeryville. I've applied for an inter-district transfer and I won't know the results until summer. Needless to say, this is extremely anxiety provoking for both my daughter and I. Additionally, I am only marginally employed so I can't afford to pay much rent at least at the start. I've begun to job search and will apply with the Berkeley Unified school district. I believe there's hope. I've very open for suggestions, feedback, a job, a house to share, whatever you've got to give. I'm grateful to the community and feel very lucky to live in a place where single mom's like me can reach out for help. Thanks!


My advice is to wait to find out whether she's been approved for inter-district transfer. Mentally prepare yourselves for being denied, and start to get used to the idea of her attending the local high school. If your plan to move to Berkeley doesn't work out the way you want it to, you'll have much bigger problems than your daughter not attending the high school of her choice. It is just high school, after all. play the hand you're dealt
Inter district transfers to Berkeley High rarely if ever happen from what I have heard-especially in recent years. I did hear that if you can get transferred into a Berkeley Middle school in 8th grade (as an out of district transfer if they have room- or by some other means) you are automatically registered at the High School for next year. Apparently they have space in the middle schools sometimes but rarely extra space at the high school for out of district kids. Thus your chances are better if your daughter can get into a Berkeley middle school now as I heard it. The registration office near the high school and police department can give you all the standards necessary to prove residency. If you live in Berkeley they have to allow you admission at the high school. anon

Former tenant was letting someone use our address - should we report it?

June 2007

My wife and I recently moved into a home in Central Berkeley. Upon moving in we received a letter from a young woman who lives in El Cerrito. The young woman explained in her letter that the previous owner of our home had allowed her to use his address so that she could attend Berkeley Schools. She then asked us to handle her mail for her, so that she could pick it up later. We feel obligated to report this to the Berkeley School District. We know that Berkeley Schools are overburdened as it is, without serving children from other school districts as well. Should we forward this information to the school district? What will happen to the young woman if we do report it? Is it true that she may be taking the ''slot'' from a legitimate Berkeley resident? Concerned parent of a future student


She asked politely -- why not just decline politely? You have no obligation to this young woman, but what do you gain from ''turning her in''? As the saying goes, ''just say no'' and move on. -- Live and Let Live
I have read this post and much of the previous discussion on this topic. In this particular situation, I would hope that the homeowner not to get involved in perpetuating this fraud, whether they decide to turn the individual is a more difficult decision; I wouldn't and just hope the situation ends there. In general, I'm surprised how many people would condone this behavior. It's nice to say that we shouldn't lock people out of a ''better'' school system and that borders don't matter. Borders do matter, they are the basis on which school districts are organized and funded. But does any one think this approach is sustainable? Is the logic that it is ok as long as it is only a few? Where do you draw the line? If you believe this is the case, should the Berkeley School system just openly accept any child free of charge who wants to get into a ''better'' school system, or we will just continue to support only the ones that cheat? Quality of schools is an important issue - if you want to change that, change the way schools are funded and how resources are distributed statewide - don't penalize people who are playing by the rules in favor of those who violate them - that just causes more frustration and inequality. tmm
We ''loaned'' our berkeley address to a friend whose kid was one of the only ''minority'' kids at a neighboring city school, out of kindness. Have to say it bothers me sometimes, especially if our children do not get into the school of our choice when the time comes. We definitely pay higher prices for houses and property taxes than neighboring cities to support our schools, parks, ambulances, etc. etc. etc. so I can see why people get upset about this. I'm curious to know the consequences too, as we did this quite blindly. Has a kid ever actually been kicked out due to not actually living in berkeley? How seriously does the district take this? kicked out?
I am incredulous, but not surprised, that this young woman would have the expectation that you would commit fraud with such complacency. Fraud in BUSD is pretty prevalent, and I imagine it didn't occur to her what she was doing was wrong. I feel sorry for her. Somewhere along she didn't get the message that a child needs to be a resident in Berkeley to go to school, that she was committing fraud and it is a crime. Unfortunately I know many families, whose children went to expensive private elementary/middle schools, choosing to lie to get their children into Berkeley High. What kind of message does that send their own children -- that rules apply to everyone but them? That lying is o.k.? People who live in Berkeley, both homeowners and renters (who have tax increases passed on to them through higher rent) pay high property taxes to insure that BUSD can provide a quality education. Houses cost more here because of the schools. My family stayed in Berkeley, becoming ''house poor'', to take advantage of what BUSD has to offer. What is most infuriating is that not one of the families I know make donations to the BHS Development Group, although they could afford to send their children to private schools. I can't tell you what is right for you, and it seems to be a very uncomfortable sitution, but I wouldn't do it. It is against the law. See this as part of this young woman's education--hope she takes away the message that lying is wrong and doing the right thing is not always the easy thing. anon
I think it's pretty nervy of someone to contact you and request that you handle their mail so they can dupe the school district. That being said, if you feel uncomfortable turning them in directly to BUSD, you should just tell them that you are not obligated to help them and don't want to be put in the middle. They had an arrangement with the previous owners, but you don't feel comfortable continuing it. I'm not sure what the policy is, but I have known families who used to live in Berkeley and had their kids in Berkeley schools petition the district to stay at their Berkeley school after they moved to a nearby community (i.e. El Cerrito.) Obviously, the people you are dealing with never actually lived in Berkeley, but if it helps you feel less guilty knowing they may get to stay at their school, that's food for thought. berkeley public school mom
I would most definitely contact BUSD about this. First off it's fraud, and second - why does this person think they can ''bully'' the new tenants into breaking the law? Which is essentially what one (and the previous tenant) was doing. TS
The same thing is happening in Castro Valley USD ... so many people use false addresses to get in. Is it fair? No way, and some do get caught - as they should. If we as parents stick with our neighborhood school - instead of trying to bail out - then maybe we could make a difference with the school district, the PTA, get parents involved & so on. But instead - people just want to bail out, or break the law. And what kind of lesson are we teaching our children - breaking the law is ok? White collar crime starts somewhere. HUSD parent
I would report them. This person is probably taking a slot that could go to someone from out of district that has tried to get in legitimately via the process they have in place. Why should you do this for someone you don't know? You don't know what her situation is or if there is an true need for her to lie in order to get her kid into a decent school. We have the same issue in Albany, a highly regarded school district. We recently moved to Albany and at our new house there is mail coming for about 5 different families, including for two children (from different families) enrolled in Albany schools. I know only the previous owners were living here. We want our kids to go to school in Albany and paid A LOT for this house. To top it off at the last minute the owners demanded more money from us or the deal was going to be cancelled. Given what we paid, the taxes we pay, and that we have 3 kids that will be going to Albany schools, we were not willing to front for two kids we didn't know going to school here illegitimately. I called the school district and gave them the names. anon
Yikes. While I think it was presumptuous at best for this mom to ask you to mislead the school district along with her, I would try a more measured approach. What about contacting mom and airing your concerns with her? It seems to me that while the outcome may be the same (she'll have to change schools) this might give her more time to find a decent alternative. I agree that equity is important, but the welfare of the child is too. I don't condone her actions, but I can certainly understand the heartbreak of wanting what's best for your kid. I'd call her and say you're not going along with it, and that she needs to address the situation or you'll report her. Bleeding heart mama
This is outrageous that this woman is asking you to do this for her (basically, asking you to assist her in committing fraud). Kindly tell her than you will be happy to forward all her mail to her new address, and that she should file a ''change of address'' form with the post office so that all her mail is properly forwarded to her without your assistance. Don't even address the BUSD issue with her (no need to turn her in), but I strongly suggest that you quietly hang on to that letter from her as ''evidence'', should need it in the future. Wouldn't it have been ironic if you or your wife, as the new occupants of the house, actually worked for BUSD assignment? Don't be swayed that the letter was written by a ''young woman'' (clearly a minor child) and not her parent. Someone's fishing for the sympathy vote. I think it's just wrong that a parent is putting his/her child up to commit fraud, rather than taking responsibility for this action himself/herself. BTW, I think there is a way BUSD students, if they are already attending a certain school, can remain at the school even if their address has changed due to moving houses, etc. I know this is the case for my neighbors, who moved out-of-zone but still within Berkeley, and whose kids still attend the school in their previous ''zone''. Advise this young lady to look into this with BUSD. BUSD Parent with Boundaries
While there are several reasons to have kids who are not area residents attending certain schools not in their ''area'', I certainly would not put myself into the position of lying for someone so that they can achieve that end -- that is just what you would be doing by allowing someone to use your address. She is committing fraud by falsifying her address and in knowingly allowing her to do that with your address, you are abetting her to do so. I would certainly NOT allow her to do so -- whether or not you report it to BUSD is your choice -- I would guess that she is not the only one lying about her address, so they may donothing about it. People who so blatantly disregard the rules make me angry. We live less than 1/2 mile from the cutoff from being allowed in the Acalanes school district, so when we bought our house, we made the choice to go private. Not an inexpensive decision, but surely this family had the same choice to make, and instead they chose the less expensive route either figuring that they would lie about their address or move. While I understand that not everyone can choose or may not want to choose to go private, there are proper ways and channels to take to try to obtain legal entrance into the schools that you want to attend. While most travel these channels and accept the decisions that are made, some still choose to cheat -- don't stoop to their level!
A reference was made to a previous post, but it really seems like this post deals with a very different topic. The previous post had to do with someone ''snitching'' on someone they thought might be in Berkeley schools illegitimately but with no real knowledge of the facts involved. This post has to do with someone being asked to knowingly commit fraud to benefit someone they don't even know. This situation seems like a no-brainer. WHY would anyone allow someone they don't know to use their address? It's not only postal fraud but an extremely idiotic thing to consider in this age of identity theft. likes to play by rules BUSD Fraud, what are the consequences?
If it were me, I would let the student know that you are not willing to hold or open or process her mail. Another option would be to refrain from engaging with her directly, but to simply put any mail that comes for her back in the mailbox with ''not at this address'' on it. Without judging the circumstances of what led to the initial use of your address, I do not see it as your responsibility to perpetuate the fraud for someone you don't even know. Nor do you necessarily need to ''report'' it to the district. If you return the mail to sender, it becomes an issue between the student and the district, without you in the middle of it one way or the other. It seems to me the student's request of you is inappropriate and unreasonable. Good luck! Wouldn't want to be in your shoes
This woman sounds a little nutty. Since you mentioned that she lives in El Cerrito, I would like to reassure you that the schools in EC are improving and most are comparable to Berkeley. Please tell this person to go back to her home district. There is no reason to fradulently attend Berkeley schools. We have discovered that the neighborhood schools in EC may not look as good ''on paper'' as those in nearby districts but there are some hidden jewels. People who have chosen to stay in the district and work to improve the local schools are beginning to see some payoff for their efforts. Within the last few years, the district was able to renovate and improve many of the El Cerrito campuses because the citizens of W. County voted in numerous bond measures and a parcel tax. This has enticed many parents to take a second look at their local schools. The new Superintendent is very focused on improvement and has already shaken things up quite a bit--pink slipping ineffective administrators, encouraging parent involvement, working to improve safety at each campus, etc. I hear the same thing is happening in Oakland Unified as well where some of the elementary schools now have long waiting lists. Hopefully, this trend of people staying put and advocating for better schools in their own community will continue so ALL children have good schools to attend.
first of all, I am a parent who's kid went to bh through a transfer, that I had to renew each year, based on the fact that he started off in a berkeley grammar school before I was forced out of berkeley by high rents. it really ticks me off to read the laments of people saying they pay higher home prices and taxes, etc, and so are entitled to better schools. Have you checked home prices and taxes in Oakland lately? they are astronomical. apart from that however, the bottom line is that oakland schools are mostly terrible, and the the urban ca. school systems are defunct. yet we also pay high taxes and home prices, not to mention people who rent in oakland and get soaked for huge amounts of money each month. the system is broken. try looking beyond the end of your own nose. doesn't every single child deserve a decent safe education, whether or not their parents have either inherited money, have family money, or have been able to afford a good education themselves, thus having the privledge of living in berkeley? if you really care, try doing something positive about it. and NO, I dont think you should ''turn in'' someone who is lying to get into a decent school. If they were messing up or not going to school belive me they would be kicked out of there immediatly. people in oakland pay taxes too
I know this is off topic, but I'm really tired of Berkeley residents ranting and raving about how they pay much higher property tax than anyone else. The Berkeley property tax rate (including the voter-approved increase for BUSD) is 1.235%. The Oakland property tax rate ranges from 1.22 - 1.3773% (the more valuable your house, the higher your rate). So count yourselves lucky, you have lower average property tax rates and overall better schools than Oakland residents. And, from my conversations with BUSD school administrators, they know who the out-of-district families are, they just choose to do nothing about it. You know why? Because the 'defrauders' kids, ON AVERAGE, have higher attendance records (i.e. more $$ for the schools), get better grades, have more involved parents who contribute to both the school and who engage and help their kids with their school work. can't stand complainers BUSD Fraud, what are the consequences?
Bottom line: You are being asked to participate in a fraud. This is not the same a previous discussions, where people had discovered that students attending berkeley schools did not live in berkeley. In those situations, the reasons for the child's attendance were unknown and could have been legitimate. Here, you must decide yourself if you want to commit fraud by ''taking care of the mail'' for this family, and take responsibility for the consequences that might befall you (regardless of what happens to her). anon berkeley resident

What would you do about illegal BUSD enrollment?

May 2007

I would like to conduct an informal survey about what other readers would do regarding a case of a non-Berkeley family getting their child into one of the desireable Berkeley public schools. While on the one hand it's difficult for me to fault a parent for wanting their child to get as good an education as possible, this situation on balance angers me. I know of several Berkeley families (in fact I do not personally know any who got into their first or second choice schools) who were not able to get their children into this particular school and like many, they cannot simply send their children into private school and instead will be sending them to less desireable public schools. I am tempted to call the admission office at BUSD to try to at least get information on how or why this is occuring. If this student was accepted through official means, this situation does not seem very fair to Berkeley residents. If the parents lied about their address, this also does not seeem right. We do pay a lot of city specific taxes in Berkeley and these spots in the more desireable schools are a scarce resource. I would think that most Berkeley residents would agree that this is not right, but what would you do, if anything, about it? Concerned Berkeley resident


I would not do anything. Leave it alone and move on. You don't know all the reasons behind it, and you don't know the benefits and detriments that the situation causes. MYOB. Public School Parent
I would do something. One of the reasons for rules and laws is to level the playing field. There are always people who feel they are above the rules, but feeling entitled does not make you entitled. And the fact that this family took a spot that should have gone to a Berkeley tax-paying family is just downright wrong. Jen
I understand your frustration with the situation. I know one family with two kids at Berkeley High who use a false address and one family that was trying to use their business address but was kicked out. The white high achieving family stayed, the family of color with a learning problem was sent out. I have heard they let the high test scoring kids stay by looking the other way. In Walnut Creek, my friend had the school come out almost monthly and unannounced to see if she was living where she claimed on her form. I guess they get so much money per pupil from the state and choose accordingly. bewildered
First of all, it seems that your topic title and the content of your question don't exactly jive: the enrollment isn't necessarily ''illegal'' as far as you know. The (very complicated) enrollment process -does- allow for out-of-area kids to attend BUSD schools, I believe it's 5th in the list of 5 priority levels they use to assign schools. So, just because somebody doesn't live in Berkeley doesn't mean that they are attending a school illegally. You should probably find out the details before you start making accusations.

BUSD cares a lot about diversity in their schools, so unfortunately not everybody who lives close to Thousand Oaks gets to go to Thousand Oaks (I'm just assuming, but I bet this is the school you're talking about). It's not necessarily fair if you live a block away, but it's definitely fair to the kids who live far away and wouldn't ordinarily be able to benefit from the services at this excellent school. That said, Rosa Parks is a good school, too (again: assuming) and just because it's not in a neighborhood that you like, doesn't mean your child wouldn't still get an excellent education there. And, for the record, I live in the Central district and got my first choice. So, now you know one person, anyway. BUSD mom


I wouldn't single out the family or child but rather put your energies into pressuring the school district to be more pro-active about verifying residency. The district asks for three of the following ''proofs'' of residency:
    *  PG&E bill
    * EBMUD bill
    * Telephone bill
    * Cable Bill
    * Bank Statement
    * Paycheck Stub
    * Driver's License
    * At least one proof of residency must be a utility bill.
I've never had any of these entities ask for proof of residency. All they ask is for our word that we live where we say we live. Why or how these documents can be considered adequate proof of residency is beyond me. Lafayette asks for a utility bill plus either a tax bill for homeowners or a signed lease with the name and number of landlord for renters. Statements from Board of Ed members in the press lead me to believe they don't think there's a problem or for political reasons they're reluctant to press this matter. anonymous
I live in Oakland, not Berkeley, but our neighborhood is facing the same problem of non-neighborhood families using false means to gain access to a good public school (displacing neighborhood families who are the stated OUSD first priority). I'm angry that people who lie are getting into schools ahead of people who apply honesty. Local school districts need to take this issue more seriously and institute stricter methods for verifying addresses of their applicant families. They should at least look into families that have been flagged by others as having lied their way into a school. Cheating should not be rewarded. I'd turn in a family who lied if it meant that someone who applied honesty was going to get that spot! People pay a premium in housing prices and property taxes to live in areas with good schools. Why should others who haven't made that same sacrifice get all the goodies?

Please don't cheat and don't allow others to cheat with your address. I've seen first hand how destructive this issue can be within a community. Playing fair and square in Oakland


You raise some interesting points. A few responses:

-You object to the family's gaining entry into the 'more desirable' school. Does that mean you wouldn't care if the family got into the 'less desirable' BUSD school? I ask because there are too many Berkeleyans who rely on heresay and herd mentality to decide what schools are good versus bad. It kind of rubs me the wrong way when people glibly use characterizations like 'desirable' and 'not desirable'.

-If the BUSD admission system is being abused, we should be worried about the effect on ALL our schools, not just the one we wanted to get into.

-If you feel that a specific family has violated the admissions policy, you may want to inquire with BUSD about what you believe BUSD criteria to be, but not 'calling out' this family. If you still think that violations of the criteria are going on, and it bugs you, I would recommend writing to the school board with a request that they start making their admissions policy more explicit and that they devise a plan to enforce the policy.

-I am aware that a lot of people have these concerns from time to time about overall BUSD admissions, and I think it would behoove BUSD to publicize a very explicit policy about admission, and their plan to enforce that policy. Otherwise, I'm worried that the supplemental taxes that Berkeleyans do pay for their schools (BSEP, etc) will be in jeopardy in the future.

-I am curious about whether Albany or Orinda or Walnut Creek have an 'enforcement' program for ensuring that students who are admitted actually live in the district, and whether people feel that such policies work. Curious in Berkeley


I totally hear where you're coming from! I actually know several families who send their kids to Berkeley Public Schools, and none of them are actually Berkeley residents!! Some are using friends' addresses to get in. A couple of families live in nearby cities where they wouldn't consider sending their kids to public school, so the parents got teaching jobs in Berkeley specifically so that their kids could go to school here. That even bothers me, and I'm a teacher!! Those of us who actually live in Berkeley pay extremely high property taxes, and yet we're not guaranteed that our children will get a quality public school education. It's ridiculous!! I hadn't thought of reporting anyone to the district office, but it's not a bad idea. Very Concerned
I'm glad this question is coming through again as I felt last time the answers were unfairly censored due to the nature of the responses (giving advice vs. giving opinions). I think if you know someone who is lying about their address for enrollment you should call BUSD and let them sort it out. It's not right, the enrollemnt process is such a crap-shoot and while we were initially discourged at not getting our first choice we've ended up liking the school we were assigned. We made a lot of sacrifices to move to Berkeley so our children could attend school, if families want Berkeley schools do the right thing and move to the city and contribute to the tax base that makes the schools so desirable. Just because they're public doesn't mean they're free
Intereseting points and something I have thought about. We are paying more to rent in Albany than those that live in neighboring cities because we are attached to our children's school. There are families at this school that do not live in Albany; some of them live in El Cerrito, Berkeley, Richmond, etc, and not only live further away, but probably pay less for housing than we do.

However, their personal situation--where they live, where their children go to school, and how the district decides to deal with it--is really none of my business. If you or your friends feel strongly that your child should go to their neighborhood, closest school, than of course you should keep pushing for that. Make sure you are on the waiting list, call the admin office, talk to officials in the district, and put your energy towards doing what works for your family.

As far as the other familes, their business is really none of your concern, and you probably don't know the details of the situation. It is hard to know if something is ''fair'' without having all of the pertinent info, some of which may be confidential anyhow. anon


In my opinion, if you stand silent, you have joined into the unethical conduct of the parents of these children. If these parents want their children to attend Berkeley schools, then they should move into Berkeley. Parent
Since Measure A passed I find myself increasingly irritated with people who lie to get into the Berkeley schools. The schools are as good as they are because Berkeley residents pay extra. I think the more people in the community who complain to the school district and directly to the board the better the chances are that the district will start enforcing its own policies. The school board members are elected by the citizens and they should know where people stand on this issue. I don't think it's right to report a specific child, but I do think it's right to report that it's happening and that you, a voter and taxpayer, feel that the district should not allow it. anonymous
I lied to get into Berkeley High. We were living in Crockett and lived across the street from John Swett High. I had been threatened, beat up, ganged up on, and generally harassed for the ONE semester of 8th grade I attended in my local school district. I told my mother that if she sent me to John Swett, I would get a blue mohawk and drop out of school. So she put our name on a friend's phone bill and drove me to school everyday for 4 years. Bless her! All the Berkeley people who want to narc on children for trying to get a decent education need to get a life. Don't forget that borders are randomly drawn lines on a map that are designed to make you think that there is an ''Us'' (in this case, those who get to live next to the school of their choice) and ''Them'' (those who cannot live near the school of their choice). If someone wants to lie to get into a school that's their karma. Find someone else to pick on, and leave the kids alone. ps. You have high property taxes because you voted for them. Beat the System and Enjoyed Every Minute
I think it is important to take into consideration the many oppressions that are very real in our society before deciding what to say to whom about where children are enrolled in school. Many people attend Berkeley schools that rent and do not pay property taxes. What do you think their rights and responsibilities are? Having worked in Berkeley schools as an educator, I do not send my children to BUSD schools as they are currently run. They are not all they are cracked up to be, in my experience. The reasons are complex and hard to quantify. Pointing fingers, and building walls and fences won't really solve anything. The tone of this exchange makes it clear how much frustration there is in the East Bay when it comes to schooling. The lines we are drawing in Berkeley or Albany or Oakland are false. We are all living in this region and the schools are broken. Maybe we could find some solutions if we stopped using the ''divide and conquer'' model on the topic of school enrollment. Consider Audre Lorde's words, ''The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. In our world 'divide & conquer' must become 'define and empower.''' Reflect deeply before you engage in deciding what someone else is doing and why. Reflective
Leave it alone. Shouldn't we all be concerned with schools improving better so that we don't end up policing neighbors. Who's really to blame here?!!? anon
To the original poster, I am sorry you're getting shamed for not being liberal enough.

Personally, I'm a ''rules'' person, and a liberal. I don't think that's inconsistent with being a liberal. I think it's in the true liberal tradition to work to CHANGE rules you disagree with, not to act as if the rules don't apply to you. I also believe that this is an example of market behavior. If the market is easy to game, then it will be gamed. If market participants can get better goods (''better school'') for less money (''property taxes'' or ''rent''), then particpants will naturally pursure that option. In the long run that won't work because those paying the higher price and not getting the better goods will leave the market (''move away'', ''private schools'')...

Something as important to all of our children as school assignment should not be a gameable system. Advice-wise, while I might personally not be willing to go so far as to turn in an individual, I would certainly raise my voice with the district, the school board, and other elected officials. And you know how that market works - if enough money (''potential political contributions'') talks, the officials will act. a.s.


I agree with the post that said this is really a political issue -- Berkeley is known for being rather lenient on the residency requirements, and when this issue came up a while ago re. the high school, the district denied that there were that many kids from out of district at BHS. Out of touch with reality? So, even if you reported it to the district, I suspect they wouldn't really do anything about it. And, we (parents), who work to support the schools and build community, etc. shouldn't be policing our schools to see who is legitimately in and who's not. It is a challenge -- we have many kids at our elementary school who don't live in Berkeley, and at the same time I know so many families in my neighborhood who tried to get into this school and were not able to. Yes, if they were using the zone/assignment system to place kids from Berkeley in various schools to ensure diversity, etc. that would be one thing. But is it really fair for non-Berkeley kids to take spots that Berkeley kids want? It's just not realistic that BUSD is going to be able to be the solution for all the nearby districts that are having trouble. Perhaps we do need to start pressuring BUSD to enforce it's own policies and not be such an easy gateway into the schools. Finally, re. the diatribe against stay at home moms, it seems to me that it doesn't fit the guidelines for respectful communication in these newsletters. And I'm not a SAHM. Anon
I think the reason people get so fired up about this issue is because Berkeley school assignment is perceived as unfair. Some schools are more desirable than others. In a perfect world, they would all be equally wonderful and desirable for everyone. But let's face it, people have preferences. That's why BUSD has a Parent Preference Form. So you put down your top 3 choices. It's a lottery -- everyone should have the same chance, right? But then you don't get your preference, but you see parents who do get theirs, and they didn't even play by the rules. That's not fair, and it makes people mad and distrustful.

It also makes me mad that it is so hard to find out how exactly the BUSD lottery works. If you go to the BUSD website, you will not find an explanation of how you got assigned to the school you got assigned to. Or at least I could not find it. This should all be completely transparent. Otherwise, it contributes to the idea that the lottery system is rigged, or at best, unfair. One thing I did find on the BUSD website is the email address for all the School Board members. Instead of taking swipes at each other, we should be complaining to the only people who can actually do anything about this: boardofed[at]berkeley.k12.ca.us See http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us/SB/SB_members.html Disgruntled


Many people attend Berkeley schools that rent and do not pay property taxes. Duh--the property taxes that the landlord pays are factored into the rent. -- a renter
As we all know, the BUSD assignment policy is not perfect. However, I do believe it was created with the best interests of all the district's students at heart. Though the schools have different strengths and weaknesses, they are diverse in a way that few other districts with the type of housing stratification that Berkeley has, can boast, and I think that benefits all of our children. Also, in spite of the playground chatter, which elevates some schools as more desirable than others, every Berkeley school has dedicated teachers, active parents and an enriched curriculum that includes some type of music or art or science or gardening, etc. Let's remember how lucky we are in the scheme of CA public education!

As for the policy itself, the full text, along with maps, etc. can be found at: http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us/student_assign.html And, per another poster's comment, if you have concerns about assignments, general or specific, instead of being agitated, contact Francisco Martinez at 644-6504 or admissions[at]berkeley.k12.ca.us As an aside, we also did not get our first choice, while we know many people who did. Like I said, the system isn't perfect, but we all make it better by 'opting in' and expressing our concerns with respect and integrity. Incoming BUSD parent


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