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School Residency for Special Education and General Education Students

Where You Live Matters: Resolving Residency Issues for Special Education and other Students in Public Schools – Violating residency policies may cause your child to be removed from school and you to be charged tuition fees. This can have a significant negative impact on the academic and emotional well being of your child and on your bank account. You may need assistance from an education attorney.

By Kate Rabb

Where you live matters.  School residency issues are important even during virtual learning, when the kitchen table has become your children’s classroom. In addition to being the parent, you’ve taken on the role of teacher, coach, and guidance counselor.  Yes, public school is free for both special education and general education students, but only to those who meet the school residency requirements of the school system.

Though policies differ among school systems even within the same state, this typically means that your primary home must be in the district where your children attend school.  It must be a residence you established in good faith as the permanent home for your and your children.  In other words, this cannot be an apartment you rented just for the purpose of school enrollment.  It can’t be a condo you own but rent to another family or the home of a relative with whom the children don’t live.  If you and your children don’t live primarily at the address which you listed on school registration forms, you run the risk of being investigated by the school system.  This is not something to be taken lightly. 

If the school has reason to believe that you live in a different county or outside of the area zoned for a particular school, your kids may be forced to withdraw. This means that they would have to transfer to a different school and leave classes, teachers, friends, and teams.  Forced transfer could have a significant impact on your children’s academic and emotional well-being.  This is especially true for children receiving special education services under an IEP who are required to make an abrupt school change. 

This issue doesn’t affect only your children.  You – and your bank account – might suffer a great loss as well.  If the school determines you have violated the residency policy, you could be charged for tuition starting from the date when the residency violation began.  The tuition bill can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.  You might face these consequences even if you had no intention of misleading the school system.  This has happened to separated couples without a custody agreement whose kids live with the parent whose house is not in the school district.  This has happened to parents who are forced to move because they lost their home due to financial hardship.  This has happened to families who simply did not know the rule. 

The good news is that you have rights under state education law and school system policies, and you can contest a decision to withdraw your kids from school or a bill for tuition.  Education attorneys can negotiate with the school or initiate a formal appeal process on your behalf.  An education lawyer can help resolve the situation in a way that works for your family and keeps your children from missing school. 

Issues involving school residency can be complex and involve high stakes – your children’s education and your financial well-being, especially for students with special education needs.  If you face an issue related to residency requirements and think you might benefit from the services of a lawyer specializing in education, schedule a free call to discuss your options.

This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.