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DeKalb School Board Considers Hiring A Detective To Check Where Students Live

Susan Stephens

Passions ran high at a DeKalb School Board meeting Tuesday night. Residents packed the room to show their opposition to a proposal to hire a company that would check whether students really live in the district.

About a dozen speakers told the school board they don’t want a detective agency doing residency verification checks on students. Andre Williams told the board it disturbed him “to know someone would be following my children home without me being notified of it.” Kay Harnett called hiring a firm to investigate student residency “truly unconscionable” because it would “enforce fear in the hearts of children of this district.”

All of those who had signed up to speak for one minute at the beginning of the board meeting were strongly opposed to hiring a detective.

William Beitler, of National Investigations Inc., had been invited by some school board members to discuss the residency verification work his company does for other school districts. He said Aurora and Yorkville school districts are among his clients. Beitler tried to reassure the crowd that his company does not target specific groups for investigation and cannot report any undocumented families. His presentation was interrupted repeatedly by questions from the audience and exchanges between the board and the audience.

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ
Lisa Becker addresses the DeKalb School Board Tuesday night

Board president Victoria Newport says this discussion was sparked by an unusual problem: The district is trying to figure out why enrollments have been increasing without any new housing developments. Some think it points to non-residents enrolling their children in DeKalb schools without paying taxes into the district. Newport said the district “needs to look at policies and procedures and make sure we have tightened those up to maybe answer the issues of the public, who is asking for a search firm to come in and look through our residents and verify it.” 

The board put off further discussions and will seek additional public input. DeKalb Superintendent Jamie Craven says he wants to wait until after the district gets an updated demographics report, which he expects to arrive in mid-October or November. 

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
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