Parents upset after hundreds of Westlake High School students withdrew
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – The Fulton County School System says more than 350 students were withdrawn from Westlake High School after they could not verify their residency.
Nearly a dozen parents reached out to FOX 5 to complain about the process and say that they provided the correct documentation, but their child was still withdrawn. Many are pushing for the district to correct the decision.
Some students say they were embarrassed and shocked when told by staff at school that they were no longer enrolled.
“They didn’t call my name on attendance, and they were like, ‘You need to go down to student services,’ and I had noticed earlier that morning that I couldn’t log in,” said Jada Lemon.
“I was kind of emotional, very emotional, but I was holding back my tears,” added Faith Crosby.
Parents argue the verification process itself is flawed and claim when they tried to contact the district about their paperwork over the past few weeks that no one helped.
“Ms. Holland at Westlake High School, told us she should never have been dis-enrolled and all her documents are in order. However, Fulton County is dragging their feet,” said Natania Griffin whose daughter was withdrawn from school.
Some parents went to district headquarters demanding answers. Video from inside the school district shows part of an exchange and a staff member could be heard saying they were going to look into things.
“We’ll be able to tell if it’s an error, or if something is outstanding, or what the next steps are,” a woman could be heard stating to parents.
“What kind of continuities are in place for our children outside the learning environment?” asked a parent who says, right now, their child has no school and is missing class.
Multiple parents told FOX 5 when they pushed for answers at district headquarters, they were told to leave or they would be arrested.
FOX 5 reached out to the Fulton County Schools regarding the withdrawals and also issues that parents spoke of regarding notification and problems with getting help on the verification process. The district sent the below information:
“Westlake High School is an amazing school with current enrollment beyond capacity. Overcrowding creates safety concerns and reduces the space for students whose families legitimately live within the attendance zone. Taking resources away from these students for those who do not live in the community is not fair. Since last fall, Fulton County Schools has been asking for proper verification of residency and welcomes all students who reside in the Westlake attendance zone.”
“Students must live in Fulton County to attend a Fulton County school within defined attendance zones. Upon examination last year, Westlake High School was found to have significantly more students attending the school than were enrolled previously in its feeder middle schools. When our schools are Overcrowded, it impacts the safety of our students and staff and prevents the district from effectively managing its resources.
“Therefore, the district took a variety of steps in the fall of 2022 to make Westlake families aware that it would be checking and verifying the residency of its students.
“Parents of ninth and tenth graders were mailed a letter before Thanksgiving notifying them that students must bring the required documents as proof of residency when they returned from Thanksgiving break. More than 25 staff members were on site the week after Thanksgiving taking residency documentation. The The district again notified parents before the winter break that students who could not verify their Fulton County residency would be withdrawn from Westlake after the break.
“Staff were on site again January 3-6 to assist with verification before withdrawals were initiated, giving parents an additional chance to meet requirements.
“Through this process, more than 350 students were withdrawn from the school. Approximately 150 students did not meet the residency requirements and approximately 200 students did not report any verification of residency at all.
The district provided this link for attendance zones.
The district provided the below information on the requirements that parents needed to provide as proof of residency:
“Students must bring to school the following items, with no exceptions allowed.
• “One (1) property-related document (examples: current lease showing parent/guardian as an occupant; October mortgage statement; or 2022 property tax bill indicating a homestead exemption as primary residence); AND
• “Two (2) utility-related documents
“The submitted documents must be ORIGINAL and photocopies will not be accepted. All documents will be verified, scanned, and returned to the student.
“If the household participates in paperless billing, the student must have access to the original email and the ability to log into the service provider in the presence of the district’s residency verifier. No supplemental documents or extenuating circumstances will be allowed. If a family has moved into the Westlake attendance boundary within the last 24 months, proof of discontinued service at the prior residence must be provided, with original documentation, or by phone verification with the provider.
The district says these are the three letters that have been sent out to parents regarding the verification process: