Questions of student residency don’t typically involve home visits, much less by a school district superintendent.
But in an unusual clash, the public schools chief in the Cape Cod town of Mashpee is accused of barging into a family’s home to determine whether a student actually lives there, a complaint that has drawn a police investigation.
Superintendent Brian Hyde denies the allegation, saying he was invited into the family’s new home as part of a routine residency check that lasted only a few minutes.
The episode underscores how public schools keep a close watch for new students who are trying to improperly enroll, but specialists said it was highly unusual for a superintendent to make a personal visit to a home in question.
The Mashpee student’s mother, Marilyn King, contends that Hyde came through her front door Tuesday morning without permission, then charged upstairs to confront King. He angrily demanded to know where her daughter, who is 17, was sleeping, and opened dresser drawers to see whether her clothes were inside, King’s lawyer said.
“He told her, ‘I show up at people’s houses all the time,’ ” Michael Turner said Wednesday. “He was asking, ‘Does your daughter sleep here? Does she live here?’ She was terrified.”
When King assured him that her daughter lived in the home, Hyde said, “I don’t believe a word you’re saying,” according to Turner.
However, Hyde maintains he was invited into the house and the student’s bedroom, although he did not enter.
“There was no bed and the room did not appear to me to be occupied,” he said in a response to the allegation.
King has filed a trespassing complaint with the police, who are investigating the matter. The Cape Cod Times first reported the incident Wednesday.
King’s daughter, Isabel, had attended Mashpee schools since elementary school before the family moved to Florida last year. They moved back to the area a few months ago, and after buying a home in Mashpee sought to reenroll Isabel at the high school, Turner said.
Because the family was living with friends in Sandwich while house hunting, Mashpee officials said the teen was not eligible to enroll. The family recently provided district officials with documents from their purchase of a house, Turner said.
Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said public schools typically require proof of residency, and may have police officers investigate if doubts arise. Home visits are unusual, he said.
“Certainly it would be unusual for the superintendent to go to the home,” he said. “Most of the time, you’re going to do a paper screen,” using documents such as utility or tax bills.
Some parents will go to great lengths — such as renting an apartment as a front — to enroll their children in certain coveted districts, Scott added.
In the statement released Wednesday, Hyde said Mashpee school officials visit all new students to confirm residency.
“As a result of residency laws, school choice criteria, and regulations addressing the education of homeless students, the registration process for students is more complex and requires greater documentation than in the past,” he said.
Hyde said that home visits involve two people, and that a school resource officer accompanied him Tuesday to the King home. “Our whole visit lasted approximately five minutes,” he said.
Mashpee Police Chief Scott Carline said that King filed a trespassing complaint, and that his department is investigating.
Carline declined to discuss the specifics of King’s allegations, but said the decision on charges being filed would hinge on whether Hyde was invited into the home. He expects to finish the inquiry next week.
Mashpee’s school board chair declined to comment.
Turner, speaking on behalf of his client, said Hyde barged in after banging on the door, and did not identify himself to King’s mother, who answered the door. When he went upstairs, King was still in her nightgown, the lawyer said.
Turner said that a nurse who was in the home during Hyde’s visit witnessed the incident.
He described King’s daughter, a senior, as a “soft-spoken, sweet young lady” who was upset over the trouble and just wanted to begin attending classes. On Wednesday, she did.
“All necessary paperwork and records to complete the registration process have now been received,” Hyde said. “The high school principal met with the student and her family this morning, and I believe any remaining issues have been resolved.”