Parents Who Cheat for Their Kids

ByABC News
February 1, 2007, 2:27 PM

Feb. 1, 2007— -- Thirty days in jail? Is that a risk worth taking to get your kids into the best public school around? In Charleston, S.C., that may be the reality some parents need to grapple with now that the public school system has decided to crack down on parents who are faking their home addresses for the cause of a good education.

It was recently discovered that several families with hopes of sending their kids to kindergarten at a place called Buist Academy were filling out the application forms under false pretenses. Buist, a magnet elementary school with all the benefits that status includes -- more teachers, better funding and a superior rate of high school attendance after graduation -- is located in a section of Charleston known as "downtown." A kindergarten spot is so sought after that each year up to 240 families apply for the 40 spaces available.

Acceptance requires hitting a few different marks, among them: passing an entrance exam and having an address in "downtown." That, apparently, is where the system has been gamed. Families living outside downtown -- miles away in some cases -- have been, according to Buist Academy principal Sallie Ballard, falsifying their applications, listing as their residences downtown addresses where they don't live, and where, sometimes, nobody at all lives.

"I found one child last year who was 'living' in a coffee shop," says Ballard. "I found another one 'living' in her father's office." Of course, the point is that neither of these children lived at those addresses, and their parents were asked to withdraw their children's applications.

The discovery turned into something of a scandal locally, prompting the board of education in Charleston to spell out more explicit rules for establishing residency for new year's applying class. The new application form will include a warning that providing false information constitutes perjury under South Carolina law, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.