Woman, 28, Arrested and Charged for Lying About Age to Enroll in High School to Learn English

by Xara Aziz

An adult woman has been accused of posing as a 17-year-old so that she could attend a Louisiana high school, police have confirmed.

According to authorities, Martha Jessenia Gutierrez-Serrano, 28, pretended to be a teenager so that she could attend school and learn English.

“She was in school, she minded her own business, she did her schoolwork, she caused no trouble,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said at a news conference. “She wanted to learn English.”

Gutierrez-Serrano and her mother, Marta Elizeth Serrano-Alvarado, 46, have both been charged with one count of injuring public records, he added. They both reside in Boutte, Louisiana.

Police documents further reveal that the suspect’s mother used a fraudulent passport and birth certificate to enroll her 28-year-old daughter at Hahnville High School during the 2022-2023 school year.

After school officials received that “a tip that a female student, who was on record as being 17 years old, was in fact an adult possibly in her mid 20’s,” an investigation was launched. They then submitted their findings to the sheriff’s office.

The birth certificate, originally from Honduras, “looked just like a real birth certificate,” the sheriff said.

“Whether you’re a U.S. citizen, a foreign national, some type of immigrant — no matter what status — students are entitled a role in our public school system,” Champagne said. “Inquiring about their immigration status is not done.”

Gutierrez-Serrano’s mother was living in the U.S. on an expired visa, Champagne added. Her daughter arrived in the U.S. in 2021, and in a photo taken of her at the time, she could have “very easily be taken for a young teenager.”

She “wanted to become proficient in English and perhaps further her education, which I think we can all be sympathetic with,” Champagne said. “Unfortunately, whether it was her decision or her mother’s decision, it’s certainly bad judgment to submit a falsified document to the government.”

In a statement, the St. Charles Parish school district it “will enhance processes to determine the authenticity of enrollment documents for current and future students as well as modify policy and procedures as warranted.”

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