Ellington Parents Sue OSSE


Ethan Leifman

In the latest twist of events in the Ellington residency fraud scandal, several school families are suing the DC government, claiming that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) mishandled an investigation into 164 families who live outside of DC.

The OSSE investigation revealed than just under 30 percent of Ellington students were living outside of DC without paying the required tuition for a non-resident to attend a DCPS school. The families currently filing the lawsuit requested that OSSE waive residency fraud allegations. OSSE largely uncovered the findings by their own investigations, and not by their bus ads encouraging Washingtonians to report suspected fraudulent parents. The penalties for residency fraud usually range between ten and twenty thousand dollars.

Outrage against OSSE is mounting in the Ellington community. A sign posted outside the school listing numerous grievances against OSSE is titled “How OSSE has illegally violated Ellington parents’ appeal rights.”

The grievances include OSSE changing its Notice template used at other schools, sending letters to expired addresses and omitting all references to appeal rights. OSSE allegedly refused to file appeals and refused to give it’s 164-name list of families being investigated over to Ellington.

Perhaps the most glaring alleged violation was that OSSE supposedly contacted a woman named Nicole Hill for questions regarding residency fraud, not mentioning that she works for DC Attorney General Karl Racine. This, if proven in court, would be encouraging uncounseled calls to a prosecutor’s office.

Another sign outside Ellington is a checklist of whether or not OSSE complied with District law and the rules OSSE set for itself. Titled “OSSE’s Due Process Violations at Ellington,” the sign gives OSSE an F in “satisfying it’s legal requirements.”

These requirements include stating basis for decision, explaining opportunity for review, advising of appellate rights, describing the upcoming appeal deadline, noting consequences if an appeal is not filed, and advising that the student in question should remain enrolled until a final decision is reached.

With artfully designed signs calling for a protest at the OSSE offices posted around Ellington, the student body does not appear happy.

Sarah Tilghman, a sophomore at Ellington, said that the fact that numerous families at the school didn’t pay tuition does bother her. “I mostly have a problem in the way that DCPS and OSSE are illegally and unjustly handling the situation,” she said.

Though no immediate end is in sight, OSSE has agreed to redo the residency fraud notices for non-DC-residents and allow students to remain in school for the rest of the year, a small victory for Ellington families before the case even entered the DC Superior Court.