Under Connecticut law, school districts must provide free school accommodations, including transportation, to every child from age three to twenty-one (who has not yet graduated from high school) within the district so as to facilitate public school attendance. Typically, school administration will determine your child’s residency status before he or she first enrolls; this does not always happen, however, because it is not statutorily required. As a result, it is not uncommon for residency issues to arise after your child has already been attending classes at a particular school, and the school district has the right to exclude if it determines that your child really resides in another district.
If your child is denied school accommodations due to residency issues, the board of education must notify you of your statutory right to a formal hearing, as well as the reasons for concluding ineligibility. If you submit a written request for this hearing, the school board must hold it within ten (10) days after receipt. At this hearing, you will have the opportunity to present any evidence (including that which establishes your child’s residency), cross-examine any witnesses, and present arguments – however, you bear the burden of establishing residency by a preponderance of the evidence. A stenographic record or audio recording must be made of this hearing, and the school board must produce its findings within ten (10) days after the hearing takes place. Have the right to request a copy, which must be provided within thirty (30) days. During the duration of the hearing process, your child may still attend school in the district.
As a parent, you have the right to appeal to the Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) the school board’s decision regarding your child’s residency. However, you must do so within twenty (20) days after the school board mails out their finding – failure to do so will make the decision of the initial hearing final. If the SBE elects to consider your appeal, it must return a decision within forty-five (45) days. However, if the SBE determines that your child was not a resident and thus not entitled to free school accommodations your school district may assess and see tuition reimbursement from you. After this avenue of recourse has been exhausted regardless of the outcome, either party may then appeal to the local Superior Court.
Ensuring free school accommodations for your child is important, but even more critical is making sure you do not run afoul of residency requirements. The situations in which confusion may occur are rather commonplace, and will be discussed in an upcoming article. However, should you find your child being denied free school accommodations due to residency issues, it is imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. 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 eligibility and residency 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.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.