Home Sweet Home?
You may have seen this article about two students in Central New York being "exited" from their public school after the school discovered they had been learning remotely from their aunt's home in Missouri.
Is that legal? Can you lose your residency if you're temporarily living (& learning) from somewhere else? What about students with disabilities? Here's a short summary of the law in New York State:
To attend a public school for free, you generally have to be a "resident" of the school district where the school is located.
Establishing residency requires a showing of "domicile" - meaning (a) physical presence and (b) intention to remain.
Owning (or renting) property in the school district does not automatically make you a resident - even if you pay school taxes.
A temporary absence will not void residence, but you need to be able to show an intention to return and have a concrete and credible plan to do so.
You can only have one legal residence for purposes of school attendance eligibility.
If you split time between properties, there may be an issue as to which location is your residence. This issue is resolved by evidence as to which location you consider "home," such as voter registration records, tax returns, amount of time spent at the property, and ties to the community.
A student's district of residence is presumed to be the district where his/her parent(s) resides. Depending on the circumstances, this can be the case even if the student lives with someone else. This presumption can be overcome if it can be shown that the parent(s) transferred custody and control to someone else, but not if the only purpose of that transfer was "school shopping."
In the case of divorce, the student's district of residence is presumed to be the residence of the custodial parent. In a true joint custody situation, the family can decide which district will be the district of residence.
The same residency rules apply for students with disabilities, although some students with disabilities are placed at schools and programs located outside of their district of residence because such a placement has been deemed necessary by the Committee on Special Education.
The "Least Restrictive Environment" standard under federal law requires that we begin with the presumption that the student will attend the school she would attend if she did not have a disability. If another placement is determined to be necessary for the student to receive an "appropriate" education, then that placement must be "as close as possible to the child's home."