About 1,200 students from outside the Torrance Unified School District have obtained permission to attend district schools this year, up 29% from two years ago, according to district statistics.
The figures, released last week by the 20,000-student district, show a surge in special permit students attending Torrance high schools but a decrease in those attending elementary and middle schools.
The survey on the number of students attending Torrance schools on special permits was compiled amid a debate over the impact of allowing non-Torrance students to enroll in local schools. The figures do not include students attending Torrance schools illegally, many of whom do so by using false local addresses.
Non-Torrance students can legally enroll in Torrance schools under two programs.
They can apply for a permit, which must be approved by the home district and the Torrance district. Many permits are granted on the grounds that the parents' after-school child care is in Torrance, and others may involve a child's health or safety. A preference for Torrance schools over another system is not considered a valid reason to get a permit.
Elementary and middle-school students can enroll under parent-employment transfers. These permits are issued to any kindergarten through eighth-grade student whose parent works in Torrance.
District statistics show 887 non-Torrance students had permits to attend the city's schools last month, up from 713 in 1989-90. An additional 312 students enrolled under parent-employment transfers.
In the high schools, the number of permit students jumped from 150 to 365 over the two-year period. But in elementary and middle schools, the number fell from 563 to 522. Some of the decrease may reflect the fact that permits were not issued for some elementary and middle schools because of crowding, officials said.
Other students attend Torrance schools under "affidavits of residency," in which their parents sign affidavits stating that the child lives with a relative who is a Torrance resident.
The number of affidavit students fell from 423 in 1989-90 to 320 last month, officials said.
The Torrance teachers union has called for a review of the district's policy, suggesting that outside students may be the cause of "an overall change of climate" in Torrance classrooms, especially in the high schools. The teachers said students from outside the district appear less prepared academically and may be linked to vandalism and discipline problems.
District officials conducted the enrollment study to prepare for a special Nov. 9 school board workshop on the issue. School board President David Sargent said Friday that the board will scrutinize the statistics before deciding whether to alter district policies.
A teachers union official, told of the study results, said more review is needed on how the influx of students from outside the district affects specific schools.
"It bears out that the numbers are considerable," said William A. Franchini, Torrance Teachers Assn. executive director. "I think there needs to be an assessment of the impact on the overall program, particularly the environment, the climate, at each (school) site."
But District Supt. Edward J. Richardson defended the district's permit policy, saying, "The kids who are here on permit are good kids.
"At this point," he added, "what we're really concerned about, more than permit kids, are those people who are here illegally."
The district recently stepped up efforts to discover students who are using false addresses to enroll in Torrance schools. Many illegally enrolled students live in areas served by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Some parents say an increase in crime and violence in the Los Angeles schools has forced them to put their children in Torrance schools.
School officials believe that a growing number of families are using false addresses. The start this summer of a year-round calendar in Los Angeles schools may be adding to the influx, officials said.