A sad irony: America’s ‘first free’ public school cracking down on ‘illegal’ students

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DEDHAM, Mass. – Somebody should explain the meaning of “irony” to the men and women in charge of Massachusetts’s Dedham Public Schools, because they apparently don’t understand the concept.
ohnoLeaders of the Dedham school district – which is “home to America’s first tax supported, free public school” – recently announced they’ve worked with police to identify some 20 students who have been stealing a free public education from the district.

Dedham school leaders didn’t reveal how much time and taxpayer money they’ve spent to ferret out these thieving students, though it must have been quite a bit judging from information shared during a Jan. 8 school board meeting.

At the meeting, Juvenile Officer Ron Pucci explained to members that every year he conducts up to 100 residency verifications of students who are new to the district, a process that requires multiple home visits, reports DailyNewsTranscript.com.

“The 75 to 100 (students) doesn’t reflect the amount of visits I need to do, especially the ‘red flag’ ones are the ones that we find we usually have to go three to four times to those and then they’ll generally appeal it,” Pucci said, according to the news site. “Then we’ll go another three to four times, and then they leave for a month and then come back.”

School board member Susan Butler-Walko said community members don’t understand “how much effort that this administration with the police department puts in to those residency checks and how much time it actually tales the administration to work on that,” according to DailyNewsTranscript.com.

Why are these people working so hard to keep children out of school? And why does it matter if these kids want to attend a school outside their own neighborhood?

Why doesn’t the state get rid of school district boundaries altogether, and set up an orderly system that will allow all children to attend the schools of their choice – particularly those kids who are stuck in horrible, failing districts?

We weren’t at the school board meeting, but the tone of the DailyNewsTranscript.com story makes it seem as though school and police officials were suggesting that Dedham residents don’t adequately appreciate all the hard work they do to keep “the rabble” out of the community’s classrooms.

Again, this is coming from the district that brags about having the “first free, taxpayer-funded public school in the United States.”

It’s easy to see why some families – those whose kids are stuck in some gut-rot school just because they live in the wrong zip code – would try to get into Dedham schools. The district’s high school is ranked as one of the Bay State’s finest, and the district’s student-to-teacher ratio is about 13 to 1.

The Dedham district also has a new state-of-the-art athletic complex, which appears to have been built, in part, with state tax revenue.

We don’t mean to single out Dedham schools for ridicule. We understand there are numerous other school districts across the U.S. that also crack down on out-of-area students. It’s a national problem.

We also appreciate the fact that local residents feel territorial because they support their schools with their tax dollars. We get that.

However, no U.S. school district is an island. Every district we’ve ever encountered receives funding from their states as well as the federal government. And since all schools benefit from the taxes paid by all Americans, they shouldn’t have the right to reject children who “sneak” across the district’s borders in search of a better education.

These are American children, not illegal aliens. If there’s room for them, they should be given a desk and invited to take part in the instructional activities.

It’s been well-established that every child has the constitutional right to a free and adequate public education. Those rights should trump any and all other considerations. Families should be free to send their children to the school of their choice.

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