The District is suing two D.C. police officers for more than $224,000 in back tuition and penalties for allegedly enrolling their three children in D.C. public schools while they lived outside the District.
The lawsuit alleges that Lt. Alan Hill and Sgt. Candace Hill used a false address in Northeast D.C. to enroll their children in public schools near the Second District police station in Cleveland Park where they worked, a scheme that allegedly lasted as long as 10 years.
Non-residents can attend public schools in the District, but they must pay annual tuition. The complaint seeks recovery for unpaid tuition, plus penalties that could total more than three times the amount they owed, under the terms of the D.C. False Claims Act.
“You shouldn’t take advantage of the taxpayers of the District of Columbia and expect to get away with it, and suits like these are one of the tools we use to safeguard public integrity,” Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement.
The couple has three children, now teenagers, who attended D.C. public schools starting in 2003, according to the complaint. They attended John Eaton Elementary and Alice Deal Middle, both schools that often have long wait lists. The oldest was enrolled in Woodrow Wilson High School for a short time.
To enroll their children, the couple used the address of an apartment in Northeast that Alan Hill purchased in 1996 and rented to other people, according to the complaint. The family instead resided in Mitchellville, Md.; Alexandria, and Accokeek, Md., during that time.
Alan Hill, reached by phone Thursday, declined to comment about the case. “We are in the middle of this process and still trying to understand it,” he said.
The issue of nonresidents enrolling in D.C. public schools is often heated, particularly as students compete for a limited number of seats in highly sought-after schools. Parents often talk of sitting on wait lists for schools while they see drivers with license plates from neighboring states lining up to drop off their children.
D.C. Public Schools investigators look into tips of residency fraud. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education is charged with investigating allegations of residency fraud in public charter schools. Cases are often hard to prove in a city with high student mobility.
The OSSE submitted a report to the D.C. Council this week showing that it has investigated 70 tips for the 2014-2015 school year. Just two of the 38 cases that have been closed were determined to be residency fraud.
In addition, the annual enrollment audit of students turned up 111 whose residency status could not be verified. Subsequently, 65 students submitted documentation that proved residency, 31 students withdrew, and seven students were determined to be non-residents.
In September 2013, after a Metropolitan Police Department investigation of the Hills’ residency status, D.C. Public Schools informed the couple that they would have to withdraw their children unless they paid back tuition.
The Hills pulled their children out of D.C. schools but appealed the school system’s decision to remove them. At the time, the police department also referred the matter to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, which declined to conduct a criminal investigation.
At a hearing this January, the couple withdrew their appeal.
The Office of the Attorney General has recovered nearly $800,000 in public school tuition since 2012 through 13 monetary judgments and five out-of-court settlements.
The office settled one case for $26,700 in August 2014 against a former D.C. schools principal and her adult daughter and adult granddaughter. The lawsuit alleged that, while principal of Langdon Education Campus, Barbara Campbell drove her great-grandson who lived with her in Maryland to school with her to attend pre-kindergarten for two years.