DALLAS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — A Texas-based organization could give tipsters up to $5,000 for reporting admissions fraud at Dallas magnet schools.
“Everyone’s been talking about this reward,” said Aaliyah White, a senior at the school. “We didn’t think our school, a high school in downtown, would be taken up with rewards for outing people. I don’t know. I think it’s crazy.”
Parents living outside the Dallas school district have been accused of faking residency, by forging documents or taking out short-term leases, to get their kids into nationally-recognized Booker T. Washington High School For The Performing And Visual Arts.
“There’s people that can afford to rent an apartment in the DISD area or have relatives,” said Kristine Benedetto, whose son is a student at Booker T. “It’s hard to check that, and I get that.”
Government Crimestoppers is now offering a reward to anyone with information about admissions irregularities at the prestigious arts magnet.
“What makes this type of case standout was the probability of more information being out there,” said Patricia Martinez with Government Crimestoppers.
She said the site has received quite a few tips about Booker T. Washington High School since the reward was posted.
Government Crimestoppers is a privately-funded group that is not affiliated with any government agency, but forwards tips to the appropriate law enforcement group.
Dallas ISD officials told CBS 11 News it was unaware of the recent reward, but said they do investigate allegations of admissions fraud. The district also implemented an address verification process this year to get additional proof of residency from students who have been flagged.
The following procedures were put in place to address the issues as well, according to Dallas ISD:
- Address Verification Letters mailed in October and February for any student not attending a Dallas ISD school the previous year
- Certified letters mailed when necessary
- Students who did not attend a Dallas ISD school the previous school year will be receive a “Conditional Acceptance” until their residency is verified
- Teams assigned to schools to perform audits on documentation provided as residency verification
- Home visits as necessary for students who cannot substantiate address
“They ask for quite a bit of paperwork and verification about where the kids are coming from and where their parents live,” said Chris Tipton, whose daughter attends Booker T. Washington.
Current Dallas ISD policy allows out-of-district students to apply to magnet schools, but only if there are spaces left after all qualified in-district students get a spot.
“Those are your kid’s friends,” Benedetti said. “Those are people you go to PTA with. I want it to stop, but I don’t want to be the one to confront or tattle.”
Many students and parents said the reward money makes them feel uncomfortable.
“This is incredible, the fact they’re giving $5,000 to kids who turn their friends in,” said senior Mei Cotton.
Government Crimestoppers said it is sending the tips it receives to Dallas ISD and the North Texas Crime Commission.