OAK PARK, Ill. (STMW) — Suburban high school officials are suing the parents of two students enrolled in classes during the 2009-2010 school year, accusing the family of living in Chicago — outside school boundaries — and ordering them to fork over more than $30,000 in out-of-district tuition.
Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 filed the suit Tuesday against parents Maurice Carter and Terri Shaw Carter, who say this is the latest chapter in the ongoing battle with the school district. They say their family owns and lives in an Oak Park condominium, the same place they have called home for years — including the school year in question.
But court records and an attorney handling the breach of contract case say an investigation — triggered by an anonymous complaint to the school — showed the family was staying at a residence in Austin, the far West Side neighborhood that borders suburban Oak Park and the school district.
“There were two kids. They were not residents of the district, but they both went to the school,” said Loop attorney Leonard Abrams, who is handling the suit for the school district.
“I’ve had a couple [similar cases] through the years,” Abrams said. “What it is is usually the kids may be from Chicago and they would like to get a better education and for whatever reason they think they can get it at another school district.”
“But if someone wants to put a child in that school district and if they don’t live in that school district they have to pay,” Abrams said, noting Illinois law prohibits providing inaccurate residency information that allows a child to attend school tuition-free.
The Carters say Terri Shaw Carter and her mother run a day care out of the West Side address in question — so it’s a work address, not the family’s residence.
The Carters say it is frustrating because they pay property taxes — money that underwrites the local school system — on the Oak Park condo they continue to call home. They say they showed district officials the tax paperwork and phone bills to prove they live there. But their children were still shown the door.
Property records show Terri Shaw Carter is listed as the owner of the Oak Park residence.
Their son, after attending school for four years, was not allowed to graduate with his class and his transcripts remain in the district’s possession until the tuition is paid, his parents say. Without them, he cannot go to college, they say. For now he is enrolled in the federal Job Corps program, which provides everything from job training to a GED, in Mississippi. And their daughter, a sophomore in the 2009-2010 academic year, slogged her way through junior year through the Chicago Public schools system — changing schools at one point, her parents say.
Terri Shaw Carter said she did not really know how she could fight the decision.
Neither the school district spokeswoman nor the principal returned calls for comment.
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