Since it was passed into law in January 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been the subject of ongoing debate regarding its focus on test scores and increased teacher and administration accountability. However, one aspect of this legislation that has not received as much attention in the spotlight concerns school assignment decisions and the role of NCLB in the right to transfer.
Under Connecticut law, local boards of education are left with the task of determining which school district, if there is more than one in the town, a student is required to attend. In some situations, your local school board may reach out to a neighboring town and agree to send its students to the latter (typically for matters of geographical convenience). Furthermore, school boards may “develop intra-district student assignment programs [whereby] parents may select the public school which their child will attend provided the school is in the school district in which the child resides.”
When such a program is not implemented and the school board assigns your child to a particular district, you as a parent are without the right to appeal. However, NCLB has chiseled three narrow situations by which the assignment is overruled.
Situation #1: The school is “in need of improvement” under NCLB.
Under NCLB § 1111, if your child attends a school that is designated as “in need of improvement,” he or she may seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district.
Situation #2: Your child is the victim of a violent crime on school grounds.
Under NCLB § 9532, if your child is becomes the victim of a violent crime while on school grounds, he or she must be allowed the opportunity to seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district. As further detailed by the State Board of Education, this requires:
- Bodily injury to the child, caused by an intentional, negligent, or reckless act by someone else.
- Police must be notified and write up a report.
- The police report must contain facts sufficient to show that the alleged acts constituted a crime.
Situation #3: The school is “persistently dangerous.”
Also under NCLB § 9532, if a state receives Title I funds, it must identify all schools that are “persistently dangerous” and afford the opportunity to children attending these schools to transfer into ones that are safer within the same district (if any). In its Circular Letter C-34, the State Department of Education explained that “the identification of an unsafe school concentrates upon two types of serious offenses: weapons violations and violent acts,” which fall into three categories:
- Student expulsion for possession of firearms or explosives on school property. Two or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion.
- Student expulsion for possession of other weapons (such as knives) or implements capable of causing injury. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).
- Student expulsion for a violent criminal offense. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).
If two of the three criterion are present for three consecutive years, “the school will be identified as persistently dangerous, all students must be offered the option of transferring to a school that has not been identified as persistently dangerous within the district.” However, as a parent, it is important to realize that your child’s right to transfer is moot if there is only one school at a particular level in your district, regardless of whether or not he or she qualifies for transfer under any of the three NCLB scenarios.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding school assignment, right to transfer, or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.