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Woodbridge School District recoups more than $100K in tuition from students illegally enrolled

WOODBRIDGE – Since the inception of a Woodbridge School District Residency Fraud Enforcement Task Force last school year, the district has recouped more than $100,000 in tuition and penalties and has removed 89 students from attendance rolls.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that taxpayer resources are used to maintain our schools, and that Woodbridge Township residents benefit from those resources,” Schools Superintendent Robert Zega said. “Our attendance department does a good job ensuring all of our students are residents of Woodbridge Township. The fact that people want their children to attend our schools, even if they live outside our township boundaries, speaks to the outstanding reputation of our school district.”

Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac and Zega announced the results of the task force on April 17.

The township has three high schools, five middle schools and 17 elementary schools.

Officials said administrative and/or legal complaint action(s) were initiated once a student was determined to not be a resident in the township.

“Residency fraud that results in the registration of students who do not legally reside in Woodbridge Township not only cheats parents and taxpayers that play by the rules and pay their school taxes, but it also seriously impacts the quality-of-life for township residents,” McCormac said.

The Woodbridge School District Residency Fraud Enforcement Task Force – a joint agency investigative team comprised of the Office of School Security and the Woodbridge Police Department Juvenile Aid Bureau – reviews complaints and conducts investigations involving residency fraud, illegal registration of students and truancy, according to Township Councilman Brian Small, who serves as coordinator of school security and is a former Board of Education member, and Robert Hubner, director of the Woodbridge Police Department (WPD).

The Woodbridge School District Residency Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which began at the start of the 2018-19 school year, reviewed 1,870 cases from Sept. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019, which resulted in the identification of the 89 students illegally attending Woodbridge Township District schools.

Zega noted New Jersey’s school residency statutes are designed to strike a balance between the right of students to a public education and the financial obligations of the Woodbridge Township School District to ensure students attending township schools are legally entitled to do so.

The Woodbridge Township School District maintains strict registration requirements which demand proof of residency presented prior to student registration. Proof of residency includes documentation that evidences property ownership, tenancy or residency in Woodbridge Township – deed, lease, mortgage or tax record – or other documentation which demonstrates personal attachment to a residence in Woodbridge when registering a student.

The district also requires a parent or guardian to sign a form acknowledging that falsifying residency is a third-degree crime in New Jersey, punishable by up to $7,500 in fines and/or up to five years imprisonment.

McCormac said the Woodbridge School District Residency Fraud Task Force will continue to investigate and take administrative and/or legal actions against the parents or custodians who fraudulently register children as legal residents of Woodbridge.

Township residents are encouraged to report suspected residency fraud and related student registration issues to the Office of School Security Residency Fraud Hotline at 732-726-2328. All complaints will be investigated and all information will remain confidential.

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