BEVERLY HILLS—The Beverly Hills United School District has proposed a program to begin annual residency verifications for students in the school district in an attempt to find students attending schools under false pretenses. The proposal follows a controversial action by the school district earlier in the year.

In January, members of the community were up in arms over the elimination of opportunity permits for the school district. Citing financial pressures, the district cut the majority of these permits, which allow for out-of-district students to attend schools within the BHUSD. The change would affect over 500 students with certain exceptions. The district would allow only students entering into eighth grade or those students already enrolled in a BHUSD institution, to continue attending their school of choice and renew their permits.

People were outraged by this policy change, Ryland Lu graduated from the BHUSD last year and told Canyon News, “I am concerned about the cutback on opportunity permits, as it relates to those high-achieving students from outside Beverly Hills, who will take away the enormous amount of achievement potential that they have brought to our school.”  Despite community protests and upset, the program passed and has affected the issuance of all opportunity permits in the district.

In a continued attempt to eliminate non-residents from the school roster and save the district money, the new proposal would require all students in grades one through ten to participate in the program, which requires families of students attending schools with the BHUSD to submit annual address verification forms. This revised Residency Verification form, along with a Residency Affidavit, were presented to the school Board for review at an open session on August 23. The proposal, submitted by Dr. Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard, Director of Human Resources, is an effort by the school district to ensure each student is legally enrolled. Once finalized, the program would go into effect immediately and in October letters would go out to all parents, asking them to complete the forms and take part in the verification process. In the case of people refusing to participate or the submission of suspicious documentation, the District would dispatch a residency investigator who would handle the case.

Though the program would require district funding, the proposal is intended to save money.  This goal, as outlined on the BHUSD Board agenda is, “To meet this objective and to ensure that local tax contributions are maximized to the benefit of Beverly Hills families, it is critical that the District have a full and precise accounting of its student population each year. This can be accomplished through an annual residency verification process for all BHUSD students.”

Despite their claim that the program will be financially profitable, another ex-student Nick, who spoke with Canyon News, wonders how much will really be saved with this proposed verification program.  He says that during his time at Beverly High, “I really didn’t feel that there was high enough percentage of these students to affect the budget. I understand that BHUSD might be facing financial problems due to the economy but I definitely feel that this would not be a last-resort tactic.”  Nick believes the district should be focusing on the education and that people may be frustrated by the new initiative, “I think that doing these address checks on students might get a lot of people in an uproar.”

Despite these concerns, the Board approved the proposal, which needs only to be finalized. Once enacted, parents will be expected to participate in the program as early as October. This system of annual residency verification is an effort by the school district to remove students attending BHUSD schools illegally and, in doing so, calm financial pressures by focusing resources on students who live in the district.