Teen Kicked Out Of School After Family Forced To Sell Home

The Fair Lawn Board of Education has voted to disenroll a high school student who was found to no longer be living within the district.

Seventeen years ago, Lucy and Salvatore Cuocci moved their young family to Fair Lawn to avail themselves of its highly-rated school system. 

They had hoped to see their children climb Fair Lawn’s academic ladder and eventually graduate from the high school, bedecked in crimson and gray.

But in January, just over a year away from reaching that milestone, the Cuocci’s dream came to a crashing halt.

While going through a divorce last year, the Cuocci’s were forced to short sell their Southern Drive home to avoid foreclosure. Salvatore found a place in Hawthorne. Lucy had been living in an apartment in Fair Lawn with her son, also named Salvatore (Torey for short), but a recent rent hike proved too much of a financial hurdle to overcome.

“Between rent, car insurance, car payments, electrical bills, food and all that, and trying to keep a 16-year-old with clothes on his back, it’s very hard,” said Lucy, now single and working as a medical technician.  “I just couldn’t do it anymore."

As of Jan. 19, when Lucy moved from Fair Lawn to live with a relative in Lyndhurst, her son lost his right to attend Fair Lawn High School, where he was a second-semester junior.

But Torey continued attending the school surreptitiously, through the efforts of his mother, who dropped him off and picked him up from school each day.

Upon finishing her emergency room night shift at Hackensack University Medical Center at 7 a.m., Lucy would drive to Hawthorne and pick Torey up from his father’s place, take him to Fair Lawn, and then return home to Lyndhurst. She’d do it all over again at 2 p.m. at the end of the school day, before heading back to the ER that evening. This was their drill, five days a week.

“I’m constantly back and forth,” she said. “I don’t mind it, as long as this child gets where he has to go.”

The routine worked temporarily, but the district eventually caught on after school mail sent to Lucy’s former residence started coming back undeliverable.

“They went to go talk to my landlord and my landlord told them that I moved out Jan. 19,” Lucy said.

The district launched its disenrollment process and sought to remove Torey from the high school.

The Cuocci’s plead their case before the Board of Education in a private session Thursday. The family was informed by letter soon thereafter that Torey would not be allowed to return to Fair Lawn.

Superintendent Bruce Watson declined to comment on the case, but said there’s a 21-day period from the time the board votes to disenroll a student before that disenrollment becomes official.

Watson said it’s the Board's policy that if a student is not a resident of Fair Lawn, he should not be enrolled in the Fair Lawn School District. That is, however, unless he's a high school senior.

“If you are a senior and your family moves out of town any time while you’re in your senior year, as long as you’re actively going to school, the [Board of Education] would let you finish your senior year,” Watson explained.

Torey Cuocci missed the cut by a few months.

“I think it is pretty much plain and simple bull----,” Lucy said of the board’s decision to disenroll her son.

“We didn’t intentionally cheat this town like other people do, who come in, register their kids, they live elsewhere, they don’t pay taxes here in town,” added the elder Salvatore. “We’ve paid taxes here for 17 years.

“Every parent tries to do the best for their child,” he continued. “Our kids should not be punished for what the economy has given us. That’s how I feel.” 

The Cuocci's said their son is taking the news pretty hard.

“He says, ‘Dad, I want to graduate with my friends,’” Salvatore said. “You can see it in his face and his expressions. These are kids he’s grown up with his whole life. ... He’s played basketball, baseball, football with all these kids. It’s like a brotherhood. And now all of a sudden it’s being taken away.”

In order to stay close to his friends in Fair Lawn, Torey will likely live with his father and attend Hawthorne High School, the Cuocci’s said.

"For him to go all the way down [in Lyndhurst] a half-hour away from his friends, I think that would be too much," Salvatore said. "I don’t think he would like that at all."

Fair Lawn School District disenrolls about a half-dozen students each year and catches another 10 to 20 families trying to sneak in annually during the initial enrollment process, Watson said.


Click here to read an earlier story on how the Fair Lawn School District investigates and handles out-of-district families who try to circumvent the system.

lucy cuocci February 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM
who the hell you and mr knuckles are to pass judgement on me and my family what you did digging up pictures on my daughter was unapprioate and has nothing to do about my son staying in fairlawn and to the other i did owe a house in fairlawn and also after we sold it i moved to river roads and i just couldnt do it on my owe i you only know what it is to be a single mother and women . and by the way i still have a mortage to pay for you jerk. you and the others went way beyond and digging up dirty things about my family thats not why i talk to the paper i wanted to let me son stay one more year. and i didnt cheat anyone i was just that you i paid my taxes and i lived in a apartment up to when i moved out this year so there. i not going to comment on that party it happen long time ago and i handle it with her. stop it and stop digging up garage on my family you are hurting them...................
Tommy P February 23, 2012 at 01:10 PM
The photos have been deleted, but the facts remain. The Cuoccis stole from the people of Fair Lawn. They showed NO remorse and just tried selling us excuses and slammed our Board of Education. Maybe it was the way Zak reported the story, I'd love to hear from them. They owe us an apology before they appeal for any additional help. I still stand behind my pledge to donate. The ironic part of this whole thing, is I that multiple times in this comment section I have highlighted some of the very things "FairLawn07410" is calling me an idiot about. And frankly, probably a few you didn't even know about. (yet I'm "ignorant"?) For example I pointed out how Fair Lawn taxpayers send over $32,000,000 each year to Abbott districts like Hoboken. Considering our budget is $83m, and school taxes are the bulk of our taxes. That's real money. It's 38.5% of our school budget! I pointed out how previous and current councils and the BoE won't pass a resolution calling on our State Senate and Assembly people to correct this by sponsoring a law or resigning, particularly since there are NO Abbott Districts in our state assembly district. Where is the outrage on that? BTW Those 31 districts are the 31 most expensive in the nation, bar none.
Tommy P February 23, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Before this article ever came out I have challenged all kinds of other municipal expenses which added to Cuoccis financial problems, coincidentally I was attacked for that too. I have advocated for empowering parents with school vouchers. If Lyndhurst or Hawthorne had those, there would be no problem with Torey finishing school here. The law is what it is. The Cuoccis point out they paid taxes for 17 years, they don't now. Its like complaining you paid Bally's last year, but can't go this year. I regularly visit an elderly neighbor of ours, she has been a tax payer in town for 50 years, her family doesn't use the school system. 16% of the kids in Fair Lawn don't either. You are right about the school budget always going up, but each year we see signs "For the Kids" when they should really read for the Teachers and their union dues which get funneled to the Democrats. When they announced the school board elections were going to be moved to November, the only one that commented was me. I called out the board member who had the audacity to say he was voting for it because it allowed them to raise the budget 2% without a vote.
Tommy P February 23, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Where are my critics on all of this? Money is not more important than Torey, but the rule of law is. Stand up and challenge the law. Stop voting for people who bribe you with our own money.
Chris Antonelli February 23, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Can we end this now? This has gone way off topic.
fairlawnnn February 23, 2012 at 02:43 PM
thomas paine is right. everyone is attacking him but he is stating the facts AND offering to help fund something to let torie stay in fair lawn. he's giving everyone the best of both worlds, without being unrealistic..
Peter Danko February 23, 2012 at 06:17 PM
It wasn't even Torey's party! That was in 2007, 5 years ago. No 6th or 7th grade kid is having parties. Be realistic here.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Any way you slice it, brother's party or sister's party, the focus is still on lack of parental supervision. And the fact that pictures were posted goes only to further that notion.
Daffney Jones February 23, 2012 at 06:33 PM
You're simply ignorant and selfish, what ten inch pole has been shoved up your rectum to make you so negative and rude instead of sitting of the patch all day voicing your idiotic opinions, maybe you take a long look at yourself and figure out why you are such a negative man.
Daffney Jones February 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Please this town is a disgrace!
Daffney Jones February 23, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I'm shocked you even wrote such an offensive comment I'm not sure if you're trying to be funny or not but you come off as a jerk!
Chris Antonelli February 23, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Newt could fix the economy. Then everyone would have jobs and the US wouldn't have to spend 1T+ per year on dumb programs.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 06:42 PM
You can make the town more desirable, by getting rid of the people who don't belong... oh wait...
lorena chirichella February 23, 2012 at 07:00 PM
FL - what does a party have to do with a towns lack of understanding on a child's home situation ? And how dare you make the asumption that there is a lack of parental supervision ? Do you know this family ? Because if u don't you have no right to say such a thing. A small party is being attacked ... I'll say it again ... Sorry that you had no social life in your younger years and never attended a high school/college party. The issue was handled years ago .. stop trying to dig up dirt on irrelevant issue
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I did not dig up a thing. It was posted here for all to take into account. And the funny thing about that "home situation" you mention; the home is no longer in Fair Lawn and therefore; not a Fair Lawn problem. The simple truth is that the FL BOE acted in the best interest of its taxpayers.
lorena chirichella February 23, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Wow .. FL - when did u become so miserable? Did u know new jersey is ranked among the rudest and most disrespectful states in the us (particularly our area) ? Perhapps it's because of people like you who simply don't care about others. And arnt willing to lend a helping hand ? Maybe its because your hiding behind a computer...who knows. This family spends time in fair lawn .. even though they currently don't live here they still support local businesses by making every day purchases. I no longer sleep in fair lawn but I still go to sugar flake when I want a cheese cake ... If I want Chinese food ill go to six happiness ... For a hero ill eat at gios ... I live over 30 min away and will make a stop in fair lawn on my way home . The point is just because they don't live here it doesn't mean they are thrown out of our community . And maybe u should care about others in your community ... Allot of people on this thread should learn to care for others. It's so sad to see how selfish people can be. Relax with these posts people ... It's starting to cross the line. Don't lose sight of the fact this is a family your posting on.. living people. A certain ammount of respect is called for
LB February 23, 2012 at 07:31 PM
So. I also spend alot of time in a town I formerly lived in and frequent the businesses there because I like them. Should my kids go to that town's schools when I'm no longer a resident and paying taxes to that town? Get over it. It doesn't matter how nice the family of the student is, what the kid's GPA is, or anything else. The law is the law re: public school - you are able to attend the school in the community in which you reside. If you have extenuating cirucmstances that do not fit within the district guidelines, you don't go unless you have arranged to pay tuition (if that's allowed) or in this case you moved when the student was entering the senior year. And yes, don't say awful things about this family, but honestly they should have been forthcoming with the BOE instead of sneaking around the rules.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I care about others and I am both charitable and respectful; however I like to be asked first - not taken advantage of. One of the nice things in a republic like the US is that we have a say in what our donated money goes to. If I choose AIDS research, Breast Cancer, MS or whatever, it's my choice. But when a family hoodwinks an entire community to the tune of $15k+ in educational money, I will certainly turn miserable. Charity must be given; not stolen.
lorena chirichella February 23, 2012 at 08:15 PM
How are u paying for his school ? Do your taxs go up per student every year ? Or does fair lawn propose a budget ? A budget that includes everything from the pointless rec center to markers for kindergarten ? Or is one senior gonna rock the boat ? Because as I said before there was a time the family paid taxs and didn't have kids in the system . I know it doesn't work this way but hmm I guess they paid for hoodwibks
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 08:46 PM
You obviously have no clue as to how budgets are arrived at nor implemented. Also, how the school budget differs from the borough budget. At close to 20k per fraudulent student you bet taxes and education are affected. For every 2 fraudulent students that one teacher's salary.
lorena chirichella February 23, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I'm obviously being sarcastic. And Sure it is.
fairlawn3211 February 23, 2012 at 09:02 PM
when did money become such a large issue? It is one child who has spent majority of his life in this town growing up with your children. Stop being so greedy with your precious tax dollars you can't take the money to the grave people it is one more year. As for the immature adults arguing with teens and bashing Fair Lawns education system, you should be praising it for teaching the young teens to stand up for something they believe in. Odviously the future business leaders of America are on the right track.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 09:07 PM
When some thing or some service is not lawfully yours and you take it without asking and receiving permission, it is called stealing. No if's and's or but's. This is what they did. The rest is emotions and semantics; nothing more and nothing less.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 09:16 PM
No thanks, I gave cigarettes up for lent.
fairlawn3211 February 23, 2012 at 09:16 PM
thanks for the definition, as if no one knew it already. Walking into a corner store, threatening the cashier and taking all the money is stealing, allowing a child to stay one final year in the school is not.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Theft of services is larceny. These parents are lucky they have not been led away in handcuffs and sued by the BOE for theft; as it would be their right. No you are right, taking the cashier's money from the corner store would be petty larceny; this is grand theft. In several cities and states what they did is punishable by both fines and imprisonment.
fairlawn3211 February 23, 2012 at 09:40 PM
arguing with people like you is pointless. I understand your view point with the parents being in the wrong for what they did but you have odviously not put yourself in a struggling parent's shoes. You lack the compassion in your argument, the parents were wrong.. maybe they were. Were they doing what any loving parent would have done for their child, lying ... yes. Put the rest aside if any parent were put in the same predicament they would do what torey's parents did.
BellairBerdan February 23, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I'm at a loss. Since the mother is reading this maybe she can answer some questions. Why should her child not be treated equal to others but special from others? Why, if your intent was not to cheat, did you not give the school a change of address when you moved? We're told to be generous, charitable and give to those in the community. What has the family done in the community in the past 17 years that should deserve special consideration? Are they volunteer firefighters or EMTS? Do they volunteer anywhere? Is one full year in school for free not compassionate enough? They say it's only 6 months more, but it also would have only been 6 more months of a struggle for the family. If they had 50 friends give them $100 each that would be $5000. I'm sure that would be more than enough to cover whatever rent increase for the 6 months needed until he became a senior. Actually you'd only need 49 people. Thomas Paine already said he would give $100. Does the son have a job to help the family? Have they gone to their house of worship and asked for help? Basically what has the family and their friends done to help themselves before telling strangers to be generous. There is an easy way to solve this. Residency for 6 months.
FL1985 February 23, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Again, you speak as if this boy would have been cast out into the street with no education and no friends. These parents were teaching this boy a horrible lesson by example. What do you think the conversations were like in this household, "ummm, by the way son, if anyone asks you, tell them you you still live in FL. If they ask why the mail comes back, just say, gee, I don't know. Don't let anyone know that we drive you to and from Fair Lawn everyday." Come on, seriously. What do you think any child will take away from this? How to defraud your local government is five easy lessons? How to lie your way to a HS degree. Seriously? I am certainly glad you "understand my viewpoint." Others do to, so many, that is became the law. I love how you still qualify your statement; "the parents were wrong.. maybe they were." No... no maybe. They were. They lied, stole services and defrauded a body of local government. And now they got caught.
Tom Troncone (Editor) February 23, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Hi everyone. I'm going to close comments on this story. Thanks.


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