Frustration over school residency policy

PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - An effort to make sure students at Prattville High School actually live in the district may be keeping some of those students home from school.  One parent says her children are being unfairly targeted.  While the school system says it's just following the rules.

Aries Gilbert said her family has lived in an apartment off 6th Street in Prattville since October, and she said she has proof.

"I notify them every time that I've moved," Gilbert said.  "And everything was fine when I did take the papers up there that I needed."

That didn't stop the school from withdrawing her sons Khalel and Khellan Leonard, saying Gilbert hadn't proved they actually live in the Prattville School Zone.  Khellan played football in the fall.

"It's embarrassing because they called me out of school into the office and told me about the situation and didn't know what was going on," Khellan Leonard said.

An attorney for the Autauga County Schools told WSFA 12 News that multiple letters sent to addresses provided by Gilbert were marked returned to sender.  That and other concerns prompted the system to withdraw the students until their residency can be proved.

Gilbert said the situation is frustrating.

"And not only that, my sons are out of school, they can't get their work, they miss their friends," Gilbert said.  "That's their future, this is their education."

Richard Dennis, the principal of Prattville High School, said he could not specifically discuss this situation, but did comment in general about residency issues that have arisen in the district.

"We will have people who will come in and attempt to falsify or figure out a way where they can show residency in the Prattville school zone," Dennis said.

There are tougher standards in place for student athletes following an Alabama High School Athletic Association investigation.  That's in addition to the system's residency requirements for all students.

"This is just another effort to have students be in class and be in school on a regular basis," Dennis said.  "And that's where you start finding issues and you have to pursue them."

Gilbert has retained Julian McPhillips as her attorney, but he says he does not want to file suit just yet.  The school system has offered to meet with Gilbert and her attorney once again, to try to come to a solution.

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