Madison schools will seek proof of age for some new students

2010-07-27T07:45:00Z 2010-08-18T14:27:46Z Madison schools will seek proof of age for some new studentsBy GENA KITTNER | gkittner@madison.com | 608-252-6139 madison.com

The Madison School District will ask for proof of age when registering students who live with people other than their parents or guardians or those who are 18 years or older and are enrolling themselves for school.

The district disclosed the new procedure — which goes into effect next month for the 2010-11 school year — in a statement to the State Journal dated July 23 and received Monday.

The announcement comes three months after the revelation that a 21-year-old gang member charged in a fatal April shooting had enrolled in Madison's West High School and later transferred to Middleton High School under a fake name and age.

Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, 21, was enrolled at Middleton High School as 18-year-old junior Arain Gutierrez at the time of the shooting. Middleton officials have said Mateo-Lozenzo, who police have identified as an illegal immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico, had transferred from Madison's West High School.

"This change is made as a result of a review following that situation," Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said in an interview Monday. "We're trying to get as much verification as we can. Understandably, there is probably no system that can be totally error proof."

Asking for proof of age will serve as a good "second-check" on information that is "provided with the student's standard registration forms and any information received from a former school," the district said in its statement to the newspaper. If documentation is unavailable, the district now will seek "a sworn statement from the person claiming knowledge of the student's age, which, if falsified, could subject the person to legal consequences."

Don Johnson, superintendent of the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, which also has reviewed its enrollment policy, said the district will be more aggressive in asking for proof of age from students who don't provide it during registration.

"In every case, we'll make at least three attempts to get that birth certificate or proof of name or date of birth," Johnson said.

Mateo-Lozenzo; Billy Wenner-Say, 23, of Madison; Karen Giron-Cruz, 19, of Madison; Victor Prado-Velasquez, 16, of Fitchburg; and Franklin E. Yanez, 15, of Madison have been charged with being party to first-degree intentional homicide in the slaying of Antonio Perez.

Perez, 19, was shot dead April 28 outside a Fordem Avenue business in what police are calling a gang dispute.

Giron-Cruz, Yanez and Velasquez have been ordered to stand trial. A trial for Giron-Cruz is slated for August. Yanez and Velasquez will have their final pre-trial hearing next month, but no trial date has been set.

Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Monday police still are looking for Mateo-Lozenzo and Wenner-Say.

Under current policy, the Madison School District only asks parents or guardians of students 17 or younger who are living with them to present a utility bill, a mortgage document or a lease with an address to enroll a child in school. School officials are directed to verify both the age and name of those students using a birth certificate or "other documentation provided by parent."

But the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 requires districts to enroll students even if they can't show identification.

While the Madison School District is requesting certain students to show proof of age, the law does not require such documentation to register, officials said.

Middleton-Cross Plains also requires a parent or guardian to show residency through a utility bill, lease or mortgage document. The district requires proof of age and identification through a birth certificate or passport when a student enrolls in kindergarten, but does not require it for later grades.

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