Local and regional boards of education are statutorily required to provide free school accommodations to each child who is a permanent resident of the school district and is between the ages of five (5) and twenty-one (21) years old, provided they have not graduated high school. School administrators should (but do not always) determine your child’s residency status prior to his or her enrollment in the school district. If residency issues arise, your child’s school district has the right to exclude him or her from attending school if it is determined through a formal hearing (which will be discussed below) that your child resides in another district.
Where will my child be deemed a resident if I am a divorced parent?
If your child is part of a family in which you are married to or live with your child’s mother or father, your residence will be deemed your child’s permanent residence. Questions may arise when you are a divorced parent and your child spends equal time residing at each parent’s home. Under these circumstances, your child will be able to attend school in the school district in which either parent resides. If your child confirms living with both parents it is likely that the school board would allow you to choose the school district your child will attend even if your child may only spend half the time in that residence.
What if my child lives with other family members or friends?
There are circumstances in which your child may maintain residency and attend school in a school district in which neither one of his or her parents resides. Under these circumstances, it must be determined when your child established this permanent residency. Connecticut law states that, “children residing with relatives or non-relatives, when it is the intention of such relatives or non-relatives and the children or their parents or guardians that such residence is to be permanent, provided without pay and not for the sole purpose of obtaining school accommodations…shall be entitled to all free school privileges accorded to the resident children of the school district in which they then reside.” This statute confirms three key elements.
Three Elements of Determining Residency
First, such residency must be intended to be the permanent residency of your child. Although there is no clear-cut definition as to what this entails, there are certain factors that the state has set forth that may be relevant in determining whether this residence is in fact intended to be your child’s permanent place of living:
- Where the majority of your child’s clothing and personal possessions are located.
- Town of issue of a library card.
- Where your child may attend religious services.
- Place of club affiliations (e.g. cub scouts, boy scouts, etc.).
- Where your child spends substantial time when school is not in session.
- The place where your child would go if he or she left or was not permitted to attend school.
Second, the “provided without pay” provision was enacted to avoid payment to relatives or non-relatives simply to enable your child to attend a certain school. Lastly, the “not for the sole purpose of education” provision was enacted to preclude your child from residing in a particular school district for the sole benefit of obtaining a free education. In order to make sure that these statutory requirements are satisfied, school districts may require submission of certain documentation as proof or they may even request a signed affidavit attesting to pertinent facts in support of compliance with the law.
What type of documentation may I need to produce in order to establish my child’s residency in a particular town or school district?
Your child’s board of education may require a parent, guardian, relative or non-relative, emancipated minor or pupil eighteen (18) years of age or older to provide documentation sufficient to establish that your child’s residence is permanent, provided without pay and is not for the sole purpose of obtaining school accommodations. Documents that may be provided as proof of permanent residency include: copies of deeds, rental/lease agreements, tax bills, utility bills, driver’s license and voter registration cards.
Furthermore, a signed affidavit may be requested by the school district in which your child attends school to assist in determining your child’s permanent residency. Prior to making the request for documentation or a signed affidavit attesting to your child’s residency, the school district must first specify in a written statement the basis upon which it has reason to believe that your child is not entitled to particular school accommodations.
What if my child’s home is located on a town boundary line?
If your child resides in a dwelling (single, two or three family house or condominium unit) physically situated within the municipal boundaries of more than one town, he or she will be considered a resident of each town and may attend school in either school district. The town line must actually bisect your child’s dwelling edifice and not just the real property. If the boundary line traverses only the land, your child will only be eligible to attend school in the town in which the actual dwelling is located.
What is the hearing process if my child’s residency status is challenged by the school district?
If your child’s board of education denies school accommodations to your child based on residency, they must inform you as a parent of your due process right to a formal hearing and the basis for their conclusion that your child is ineligible for those particular school accommodations. Following proper notice, you have the right to request a formal hearing before your child’s board of education to challenge denial of schooling.
The school board is obligated to convene such a hearing within ten (10) days after receipt by the school board of your written request for a hearing on the matter. You may be represented by counsel during this hearing, but at your own expense. You will have the opportunity to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and make an argument regarding any issues that are in dispute. If your child has been denied school accommodations based on residency, you as a parent bear the burden of providing proof by a preponderance of the evidence regarding your child’s residency.
The school board must make a stenographic record or tape recording of the hearing and issue a finding within ten (10) days following the hearing. You may request a copy of the transcript or recording and the school board must provide you with such within thirty (30) days of your request. During the hearing process, if you so choose, your child may continue attending school while the resolution of the matter is still pending.
Do I have the right to appeal a decision made by my child’s local board of education?
As a parent you may appeal to the State Board of Education the decision of your child’s local board of education regarding its initial finding concerning your child’s residency status. As in the case of the initial hearing, your child may continue attendance at school pending the resolution of the appeal. Please note, that if an appeal is not taken to the State Board of Education within twenty (20) days of the mailing of the finding of the initial hearing then the decision of the local school board shall be final.
If an appeal is taken, the hearing board must render its decision within forty-five (45) days after the receipt of the notice of appeal. An extension may be granted at the discretion of the Commissioner of Education upon an application by either party describing the circumstances requiring an extension. If the hearing board on appeal decides that your child was not a resident of the school district and therefore was not entitled to free school accommodations, the board of education may assess and seek reimbursement of tuition against you, the parent.
In the event of nonpayment, the board of education may seek to recover the reimbursement of tuition through available civil remedies. Finally, any party (parent/guardian or the school district) aggrieved by the findings of the State Board of Education may appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court.
Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please contact Joseph Maya, or the other experienced education attorneys at Maya Law today at (203) 221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.