By Justin Boggs
(Scripps News) — Officials in Louisiana have charged a 28-year-old woman and her 46-year-old mother for allegedly using fraudulent paperwork to enroll in a high school.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office alleged that Martha Gutierrez-Serrano posed as a 17-year-old while attending Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana. After school administrators received a tip that she was possibly in her 20s, they began an investigation and notified the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Greg Champagne told reporters that Gutierrez-Serrano had been enrolled since the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
The investigation found that Gutierrez-Serrano’s mother Marta Elizeth Serrano-Avlarado enrolled her by using a fraudulent passport and birth certificate, Champagne said.
Both women were charged with injuring public records.
Champagne said the mother had been in the United States for a number of years and was living in the U.S. on an expired visa. He said Gutierrez-Serrano entered the U.S. in the fall of 2021.
She was processed by border officials and released, he said. He would not go into details about Gutierrez-Serrano’s current immigration status.
“You know, we got obviously concerns about that and that’s a whole legal debate for another day. That’s the whole asylum thing and everything else,” he said.
Champagne said there were a lot of concerns raised after news of the incident surfaced. But Champagne said the student “minded her own business.”
“She did her schoolwork, she caused no trouble,” he said. “She was not a disciplinary problem. She violated no laws in the community that we had to deal with her. As far as we know, she did nothing inappropriate at all. Merely attended school. The information we got about the reason for her doing it was this was simple: She wanted to learn English; she wanted to become proficient in English.”
Champagne said he was sympathetic to the woman, but there are options for adults looking for an education.
“Certainly, that is a much better option than falsifying an official government document,” he said.
Superintendent Ken Oertling said school employees will be given additional training to recognize the signs of potentially fraudulent documents.
“It’s my sincere hope that this particular incident will bring an awareness to school systems in Louisiana and throughout our country, the need to review and enhance their student enrollment processes,” Oertling said.
This story was originally published by Scripps News, an E.W. Scripps Company.