OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Ocean Springs School District wants to send a message to parents who enroll their children in the district illegally: "We will find out and remove your child."
This fall, the district will implement a tougher registration policy to track down students who try to cross district lines.
Leaders say with budget cuts, the district can't afford to take on students who don't belong in Ocean Springs schools, and it's a matter of fairness.
Since August, about 20 to 40 students have been removed from schools in Ocean Springs, because officials say they don't live full-time within district lines.
"We still have about a week and a half of school left, and we've identified a couple this week that aren't supposed to be in the school district," said Ocean Springs High Principal Dr. Vickie Tiblier.
"We do have other students that their parents actually withdrew them when they found out that we were paying attention to their residency issues. Any student that is not living in our district and attending our schools is a financial burden to the district, and it behooves us, on our taxpayers' dollars, to remove them from our district," said Ocean Springs School District Assistant Superintendent Jerry Twiggs.
District leaders say students who enroll in Ocean Springs schools illegally lead to larger class sizes, and they take resources away from students whose parents pay taxes.
"Sometimes, we have students that are possibly a discipline problem in their other district, and when they come here, their behavior doesn't change, just the address or the supposed address. So, those things start coming out, and it provides more discipline problems for us," said Tiblier.
That's why the staff is paying closer attention to students who may be breaking the residency rules.
"We've noticed that students who come from out of the district are generally tardy, late. Also, you look for car tags," said Twiggs.
"Sometimes the students just come in. They may get in trouble, and we're like, 'Where do you live,' and they'll just tell us," said Tiblier.
The district also conducts residency checks.
"There are different ways we do that. We have reasonable suspicion, which means we think something's wrong, so we can actually send one of our SROs and an administrator to that home to check to make sure people are actually living there and living there full time," said Twiggs.
This year, the district is making a change to its registration policy that deals with affidavits. You see, students and their legal guardians who live with another family in the district must have a signed affidavit. Before, those affidavits had to be turned in to the schools. From now on, they have to be brought to the central office for verification.
"We will have administrators, campus administrators, also a representative from our School Resource Officer office and a notary to sign those documents to make it a legal affidavit," said Twiggs.
Those affidavits will go into a pool for random residency checks. Plus, they have to be recertified within 90 days of school.
"We want to be fair to our people who are paying taxes in the Ocean Springs School District, fair to the students attending our school, fair to our staff. We must be fair to them," said Twiggs.
People who are caught falsifying legal documents could face penalties, lose their homestead exemption and have their child removed from the school district.
Parents should contact their child's school or district office to find out which documents are required to prove residency, registration schedules and when to schedule appointments to submit their affidavits.