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Man Told to Repay School for Son's Education

July 06, 1989|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

In an action that state and Los Angeles education officials called highly unusual, a one-time Burbank school board candidate who has been battling school authorities over whether his son can legally attend a Burbank school has been ordered by a judge to reimburse the school district for educating the boy.

Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Murphy has ruled that S. Michael Stavropoulos, a neurosurgeon who ran unsuccessfully for the five-member school board earlier this year, lied when he said he lived in Burbank.

Murphy lifted a court order that allowed the boy, Michael Stavropoulos, 14, to attend John Muir Junior High School during the 1988-1889 school year while the matter was being heard in court. The district can refuse to enroll the boy when school resumes in September, he said.

Murphy also said Stavropoulos must reimburse the district for the cost of educating the youth during the last two school years. "There are expenses," he said. "It cost the district money to put this kid through school."

Present Statistics

Murphy said that before the reimbursement amount is determined, the district must present statistics demonstrating the average cost of educating a student during the 1987-1988 and 1988-1989 school years. Officials also must show Murphy how many days the younger Stavropoulos actually attended school, he said.

Those costs, authorities estimated, could be more than $5,500.

The district, which receives money from the state for every child enrolled, may have to return the state funds it received for Michael Stavropoulos, school officials said. The average state payment for the 1987-1988 school year was about $14.44 a day. The payment for the 1988-1989 school year was about $15.54 a day.

Pat McGinnis, a state Department of Education spokeswoman, said the case was highly unusual "because these matters don't usually get to court." Either school administrators or school boards determine a student's residency, she said, and their decisions are rarely challenged.

She said state legal authorities could not recall a similar case in California.

Tammy Sims, a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman, said such an issue has never come up in Los Angeles schools.

Youth Faces Expulsion

The younger Stavropoulos also faces expulsion by school authorities after he fought with another student earlier this year, officials said. The school board is slated to decide whether to expel him on Aug. 4.

Stavropoulos reacted angrily to the judge's ruling.

"I was a resident of Burbank, I am a resident of Burbank, and I will continue to be a resident of Burbank," Stavropoulos said Wednesday. He called the school board members "corrupt, vengeful individuals."

Stavropoulos has been locked in a bitter struggle with the Burbank school board since last October. The board ruled then that Stavropoulos was maintaining a phony residence so that his son could attend John Muir Junior High School.

Other Family's Pictures

District officials visited the house in the 600 block of East Walnut Avenue where Stavropoulos said he lived. But they were not convinced he lived there because another family's pictures were in the home, said John J. Wagner, a school district attorney.

Filed Lawsuit

Stavropoulos filed a lawsuit against the district and won a preliminary injunction to allow the boy to continue attending Muir while the case was heard in court. Murphy ordered the board to hear Stavropoulos' appeal of the board's October ruling. The board rejected Stavropoulos' appeal in February.

Although his residency was in question, Stavropoulos ran for one of two open seats on the board this year. Burbank City Clerk Merle Woodburn said an investigation would have been conducted into Stavropoulos' residency had he won.

Stavropoulos filed a second lawsuit accusing the board of capricious and arbitrary behavior. That suit is pending.

Stavropoulos' son attended Muir during the 1987-1988 school year. In May, 1988, when he was involved in an altercation with another student, the boy told authorities he lived in Los Angeles, district officials said.

He was allowed to finish the school year but was told in the fall that he could not return because he did not live in Burbank.

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