NAACP Penn Hills President Joyce Davis said the school district might be discriminating against some families new to the district by requiring excessive proof of residency.
The burden has resulted, she said, in children not being allowed to attend classes.
“We’re talking about delays of as much as two months here,” said Davis. “I’ve spoken to the board about this twice and they still haven’t indicated when they will address the issue. It seems to be focused on the city side of Penn Hills. Everyone who has contacted me about this long delay is African-American.”
School Board President Joe Bailey, who is Black, said he looked at some of the admission paperwork, including release forms allowing for information to be taken from the IRS, the state Department of Public Welfare, and Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families department among others.
“I looked at that and it did seem excessive to me,” he said. “When I first came here there was nothing like that.”
As for delays, he said it is possible an influx of students at the beginning of the year might have caused some delays, but there should not be any now.
“I’m not aware of any kids waiting for months, if they are we need to offer them a solution,” he said. “I will personally contact Joyce so she can put me in touch with anyone still having a problem—because those kids need to be in class.”
Bailey said he spoke with district Registration Director John Plazarin, and he has volunteered to put together a seminar, wherever Davis would like, to instruct residents on exactly what is required for registration.
The “required proofs” according to a new district directive, are a current utility bill and three others that may include a parent’s driver’s license or state ID card with the current Penn Hills address, a pay stub, an insurance card, bank statement or other document with the correct address.
Davis said people who have had to move in a hurry because they are under duress from domestic violence of homelessness issues, who wouldn’t have that paperwork right away.
“If they just got here, they’re not going to have a gas bill yet and their IDs will all have the old address,” she said. “I’m talking about people in crisis situations. There should be contingencies for that.”
When called for comment, neither Plazarin nor Interim Superintendent Stephen Vak would comment on the specifics of Davis’ complaints. The administration did, however, issue a brief statement:
“The procedure that has been established for registering new students is in keeping with Board policy. The District continues to look at the registration process to determine if streamlining can occur and does not wish to comment further at this time.”
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