If you know any students who live in the ‘burbs but attend Dallas ISD’s Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, you can turn them into the authorities anonymously and earn up to $5,000.
A notice appeared recently on the Texas-based Government Crime Stoppers website, encouraging people with “information regarding admission irregularities at Booker T. High School or other magnet schools” to send a secure tip online. Potential violations leading to legal action, the site says, may include “taking out short-term apartment leases … paying the utility bills of in-district residents to get their names on the bills to claim residency” or even “manufacturing fake documents to fraudulently show residency inside the district.”
This means the dozens of people who emailed us after our initial story, which exposed an epidemic of families cheating their way into Dallas ISD’s nationally renowned arts magnet school, can now share their off-the-record stories of friends who use these fake residency practices. Parents commonly told us they were reluctant to go on the record because they feared repercussions for their children and themselves, believing DISD officials would fail to keep their identities private.
This is precisely why Government Crime Stoppers exists, because “all too often citizens with knowledge of criminal government activity remain silent due to fear of retribution and doubts that the system would take action against powerful offenders, the site says.
Government Crime Stoppers executive director Patricia Martinez told us via email that “every morning, seven days a week, I scour the pages of the Texas newspapers, TV news sites, college papers, etc. looking for information of possible governmental corruption.” She came across Dallas media coverage of families cheating their way into Booker T., and says she featured it on their site because “it appears more information could be out there.”
Martinez and the rest of the Government Crime Stoppers team have extensive backgrounds in law enforcement. Government Crime Stoppers guarantees that tips are completely anonymous. It uses a third-party service provider and encrypted chat using a code and password. The company promises tipsters will never have physical contact with a law enforcement agency and that “rewards are paid in cash through procedures that strictly protect the anonymity of the tipster.”
Government Crime Stoppers is not linked to a particular law enforcement agency, so “tips are relayed to the appropriate investigative agency via P3 software,” Martinez says. “We ask for feedback from all those tips.” Their efforts are funded privately by several benefactors out of Austin, Martinez says, and they use a scale to determine rewards for tips providing information that substantively contributes to the prosecution of government-related offenses.
Right now, the site also is offering potential $10,000 rewards for tips on crimes of college admissions fraud and bribery in Texas — the nationwide “Aunt Becky” scandal that so far has resulted in 50 federal indictments, including three Texas residents.
Our most recent reporting on Booker T. revealed that despite the district’s new efforts, not much has changed. Most freshmen who attended suburban ISD middle schools and turned in residency documents with Dallas ISD addresses were still enrolled at Booker T. at the end of the fall semester. Several students who were admitted after the start of the 2019-20 school year when seats opened up also fell into this category.
Perhaps the possibility of a $5,000 reward and the ability for people to give anonymous tips will provide enough incentive to turn things around. As local Twitter feed Fair Park Rising notes:
Will only take one perp walk. https://t.co/miAzrxSTRW
— FairParkRising (@FairParkRising) February 17, 2020