October 30, 2020

Mississippi school hires security firm to verify students’ residency

The Lincoln County school board has hired a security firm to root out students who are illegally attending schools in the district.

The Lincoln County School District Board of Trustees on Monday approved a half-year contract with Southwest Security, a McComb-based firm that visits home addresses to verify students’ residency. Superintendent Mickey Myers said the district’s four principals have submitted a list of around 15 students suspected of belonging to other districts but attending in Lincoln County without board approval.

“If a student is habitually late, that’s a red flag, and you may want to look at those families’ residency,” Myers said.
The contract is for the current school year, and the board will reevaluate the need for the firm before the 2019-20 school year begins in August.

Board attorney Jim Keith told trustees the problem of district-hopping students will likely take care of itself after the firm gets to work.

“Once you aggressively start working it, people will turn other people in,” he said. “This is a statewide problem. If everybody would agree to educate their own children, this wouldn’t be a problem, but we’re beginning to provide a lot better services in Lincoln County. Your job is to educate all the students residing in your district, and you’re doing a disservice to your kids if you’re bringing in others.”

Myers also reminded the board many other districts around the state have stopped allowing students to transfer out of their districts. Nearby, both the Franklin County and Jefferson County school districts have stopped allowing students to leave for Lincoln County, ending an old practice of families living near the county line enrolling a handful of students at West Lincoln and Loyd Star, respectively.

Earlier this year, the Jefferson County School District Board of Trustees threatened to cancel all releases, but later backed down and allowed students who already had approval to attend Loyd Star to continue doing so. The district will not grant new releases in the future.

Districts are halting transfers because of funding issues. School attendance is a factor in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, and money is lost when students aren’t counted. Jefferson County schools received around $700,000 less for Fiscal Year 2019.

“I think the time has come for us to seriously look at stopping transfers out of the district,” he said.