Tawnell D. Hobbs, Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2008
Years after being advised by a state agency to stop, the Dallas Independent School District continued to provide foreign citizens with fake Social Security numbers to get them on the payroll quickly.
Some of the numbers were real Social Security numbers already assigned to people elsewhere. And in some cases, the state’s educator certification office unknowingly used the bogus numbers to run criminal background checks on the new hires, most of whom were brought in to teach bilingual classes.
The practice was described in an internal report issued in September by the district’s investigative office, which looked into the matter after receiving a tip. The report said the Texas Education Agency learned of the fake numbers in 2004 and told DISD then that the practice “was illegal.”
The investigative report, obtained by The News through a records request, found “that the inappropriate procedure of assigning false SSNs has been systemic for several years” within DISD’s alternative certification program, which prepares new teachers for state certification when they don’t have traditional credentials.
The fake numbers were assigned as a stopgap to expedite the hiring process, the report says. The numbers were supposed to serve as temporary identification numbers until employees received real Social Security numbers. Once employees got the real numbers, they were supposed to tell district officials so the fake ones could be replaced.
The district’s investigative unit, called the Office of Professional Responsibility, began looking into the fake numbers after the Texas Education Agency’s division of educator investigations advised the unit in July that it had discovered the district issuing false numbers in 2004.
That year, the TEA division became aware of the practice when DISD faxed copies of about 100 new Social Security Administration cards for foreign citizens—most of whom had been assigned district-issued numbers—and asked TEA to replace the old numbers, according to the investigative report. The state office told DISD at the time that it’s illegal to make up Social Security numbers and pass them off as legitimate, the report says.