Criminal investigation likely in KCPS attendance scandal, prosecutor says

Elementary school children raising their hands in front of their teacher.
Photo credit monkeybusinessimages - iStock - Getty Images Plus

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd expects to see a criminal investigation into reports of falsified attendance records at the Kansas City Public School district.

The numbers were reportedly tampered with between 2013 and 2016, before Dr. Mark Bedell took over as KCPS superintendent. He said last week that the seven employees alleged to have changed the numbers are no longer working in the district.

Attendance figures are used to determine certain thresholds for state and federal funding in school districts.

"There certainly are laws in the state of Missouri against falsifying government records," Zahnd said. "There are also general laws prohibiting forgery in the state of Missouri and there are laws against tampering with computer records."

If investigations determine that state and federal laws have been broken, prosecutors from the two sovereignties would typically coordinate their cases to determine which venue makes the most sense. 

"Things like differing definitions of criminal acts, sentencing ranges and rules of evidence," Zahnd said, listing criteria for choosing venues. 

The attorney general of Missouri would most likely not get involved in a criminal case, Zahnd said.

"The attorney general does represent the Missouri Department of Education, and so if there were civil issues, including whether or not the Kansas City, Missouri School District had been overpaid based upon falsified attendance records, the attorney general could certainly, and would, represent the state of Missouri," Zahnd said. 

Zahnd would not be involved in any investigation because KCPS has no schools in Platte County. No charges have been filed and there is no word of an investigation.

"Both the investigators and the prosecutors would want to be getting to the bottom of who exactly benefitted from any alleged crime," Zahnd said.