In Ohio, all school-age children have the right to attend the public school of the district in which they reside without charge. But what does residence actually mean for a student? This is an important question as the answer determines what public school your child can attend for free.
The general rule is that the residence of a child is the same residence as their parent. While that seems like a simple answer, it is not always that easy to determine residency. Below are a few questions and answers to help provide guidance on what residency means.
Who is considered a “parent”? Because a child’s residence is determined by the residence of their parent, it is important to consider which parent is important here. Generally speaking, a “parent” can be either of the child’s natural or adoptive parents. However, if a child’s parents are divorced or separated, then “parent” means the parent who is the residential parent and legal custodian of the child. If both parents share custody of a child under a shared parenting plan, then both parents could be considered a “parent” for school residency purposes.
Is it possible to have more than one residence? Yes, it is possible for a child to have more than one residence for school attendance purposes. This can happen if a child’s parents reside in more than one school district or when custody is shared under a shared parenting plan. If a child does have more than one residence, the child could attend either school district free of charge.
What does it mean to “reside” somewhere? We know a child’s residency is the same as their parents. But what does it actually mean to reside somewhere? When determining residency, courts look at several factors and a determination is made after considering all of the circumstances. The Court in Kenton Board of Education v. Day stated,
One cannot establish residency merely by purchasing a house or apartment building or even by furnishing such a house or apartment so that it is suitable for the owner’s use. ‘Residence’ involves something more. It must be a place where important family activity takes place during significant parts of each day; a place where the family eats, sleeps, works, relaxes, plays. It must be a place, in short, which can be called a home.
As you can see from the above quote, merely owning property in a district is not enough to establish residency for your child. You must actually live there.
How will the school district actually know whether I live there or not? If a school district has doubts as to whether you or your child actually reside in the school district, they can:
- follow your child home from school each day to see where they are going;
- make several unannounced home visits;
- request and review copies of the Deed, Lease, utility bills, etc.;
- request to enter your home to determine if your house is lived in; and
- once in the home, they can request to look in various rooms and, in the refrigerator, to determine if the home is “lived in.”
Again, if you reside in a school district, your child has the right to attend school in that district free of charge. However, there are several exceptions where a school may allow a non-resident child to attend school in that district for free as well. Here are the most common exceptions:
- when a child is attending a school through a district’s open enrollment policy;
- a student’s parent is having a house built in the district (subject to a 90-day time limitation and requiring additional supporting documents);
- a student’s parent is purchasing a house in the district (subject to a 90-day time limitation and requiring additional supporting documents);
- a student is admitted as a foreign exchange student;
- when a student is a child of a district employee; and
- through a Superintendent’s Agreement.
If you are having issues with your child’s school or if you have questions regarding residency requirements, you can always contact an education-focused attorney to help you.
Written by Jessica Moore, Esq.
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