CAN MY FAMILY HELP ME PROVE I LIVE IN MY SCHOOL DISTRICT?

Your child’s school mailed you a letter, which came back as “undeliverable.” From that, the school inferred that you really live outside their district. They had an inspector watch your home, and now they are threatening to kick out your child and stick you with the bill.

Once you receive notice of a residency challenge, you will likely need to request a hearing. Be forewarned that a school residency hearing can often be an uphill battle. While some hearing officers are quite fair, it is the school district who pays him or her. Therefore, the hearing officer has every reason to keep the school happy, if at all possible. In order to have any hope of winning, you must overwhelm the hearing officer with evidence of your residency.

While family testimony can play a role, it is simply not enough. Once a school thinks you are lying about residency, it’s hard to convince them—or the hearing officer—otherwise. You no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, your aunt’s testimony about where you live is certainly helpful, but a hearing officer may instead assume your aunt is lying to help you.

At the school hearing, it is critical to present all the evidence in your favor. You will be limited to that evidence if you later need to appeal. While your family can certainly testify, it is more effective to bring in as many friends, neighbors and acquaintances as possible.

If you receive a residency notice from your district, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. Do not hire an attorney who is not familiar with this area of law. Most parents and even some attorneys do not understand the legal issues involved well enough to avoid trouble. A parent innocently trying to explain their situation could instead get handed a hefty tuition bill. And an attorney who doesn’t understand a parent’s burden of proof may hurt their client in the long run.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

YOUR CHILD’S MESSY ROOM MAY HELP PROVE SCHOOL RESIDENCY

Your school district no longer believes your child is a legal resident, and so a school inspector is coming for a home visit. Embarrassed by the trash and dirty socks, you nag your child to clean up his or her room. Well, not so fast! This is the one time a messy room is actually a good thing.

Questions about your residency may come to the school’s attention from a student’s remark or a piece of returned mail. You may then get a letter notifying you that the school will dis-enroll your child unless you request a hearing. As an alternative, the school may ask to meet you, or they may request a home visit.

During a home visit, an inspector looks for evidence that you really live where you say. With much of their time lived online, teenagers don’t collect as many things as they used to. Or maybe you are the kind of parent who spoils your child with love rather than stuff. But in this regard, a tidy room or a lack of material things works against you. Schools have actually denied residency to parents on this basis. They need to see plenty of items in the closets and drawers, posters on the wall and a toothbrush in the bathroom.

If you receive a residency notice from your district, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. Most parents do not understand the legal issues involved well enough to avoid digging themselves in deeper. For example, the fact you own property or pay property taxes in the district is not a defense.

An attorney can help present the evidence of your child’s residency in the best possible light. Even if you lose at the school hearing level, it is essential to make a complete factual record before the hearing officer because an appellate court is limited to those facts in reviewing your case.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

SCHOOL RESIDENCY FRAUD CAN BE CHARGED AS A FELONY

Understandably, you would like your child to get the best education in the best school district, but perhaps you can’t really afford to live there. You may be tempted to lie about your child’s real home in order to enroll them in that preferred school. But depending on the circumstances and the school district, you could end up charged with a felony.

In February, 2018, Orland School District 135 pressed felony charges against a mother who provided an allegedly fraudulent lease for a home in District 135. The home was actually a retail establishment. After questioning, the mother continued to provide allegedly fake documents, leading to her arrest for felony forgery. (See Woman Charged with Forgery after Giving School False Address).

Most school districts do not carry matters quite so far. They may simply disenroll your child and bill you several thousand dollars in tuition. However, the option of pressing criminal charges for at least a Class C Misdemeanor is always possible.

If you receive notice from your child’s school questioning their residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Many parents make the mistake of trying to handle the situation themselves, but they are often unprepared for what they are walking into. By the time, they call an attorney, the facts of the case have already been established and the attorney’s hands may be tied. Furthermore, once a school believes you are lying, it is very difficult to convince them otherwise. Your words are often twisted against you.

An attorney can review your situation to see if you have a genuine claim to residency. If so, the attorney can present evidence to the school accordingly. Even if your child is not a legal resident, an attorney may be able to negotiate an agreement that allows you to leave the school district without facing criminal charges or possibly paying tuition.

If you have questions about Illinois school residency, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHEN YOUR MARRIAGE BECOMES SCHOOL BUSINESS: SCHOOL RESIDENCY AND MARITAL SEPARATION IN ILLINOIS

You and your husband no longer see eye to eye. You have not filed divorce papers, but you’ve decided to live apart—at least for now. You still hope you can work things out. One of you lives in an excellent school district so you would like your children to go there. Now the school is claiming that your children are not residents of the district and is handing you a whopping tuition bill.

Can they do that? What can happen to you?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).) However, you cannot live in a school district for the sole purpose of sending your child to that district’s schools. Therefore, you may have to prove you had other reasons for living there.

Well, you think, I am having marital issues, so I’m covered, right? Not necessarily. Legally speaking you would be correct. If you really moved because you separated from your spouse, then the schools aren’t your sole reason for living in that district. The problem comes in proving that to the school.

Unfortunately, many school districts still think we live in the 1950’s with idealized nuclear families. If you didn’t file divorce papers, the schools are suspicious. If you are ambivalent about your separation and still trying to make a go of your marriage, the schools are suspicious. If you get along too well with your spouse, the schools are suspicious. And that means that if your residency is challenged, the schools will want to know a lot about your business. This can include sharing the intimate details of your married life.

If you do file divorce papers, you may need a custody order giving the parent in the desired district residential custody. But if you haven’t filed, you will need a lot of evidence proving where you live, especially since the school will have undoubtedly sent an investigator to spy on you. The testimony of just you and your spouse is not enough.

If you receive a notice about your child’s residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation to the school in its most favorable light. Do not try to handle the matter yourself. What you believe is your right to enroll your children may instead violate Illinois law. Our clients often unwittingly make incriminating statements before coming to us. Plus, a school hearing officer is more likely to rule for the school if you represent yourself. Your child may be barred from attending that district, and you could face a hefty tuition bill as well as criminal charges.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

ILLINOIS SCHOOL RESIDENCY CHALLENGE: DON’T TRY TO DO THIS ON YOUR OWN

Over the course of the year, this office receives many inquiries when a school district has alleged that a student is not a legal resident.

Many parents are reluctant to spend money to hire an attorney. They try talking to the district themselves, perhaps even attending a hearing without an attorney.

In most cases, this is a serious mistake.

Most parents do not understand Illinois school residency law well enough to help themselves. Even an attorney who is not well versed in school law, can commit well-intentioned blunders. Explanations that seem to make sense such as “I sent my child to live with my mother” or “I own rental units in that district” are not a defense.
Sometimes a situation seems odd to the school but is perfectly legitimate. Parents may not realize the lawful basis for their child’s residency and instead rely on evidence that is at best irrelevant and at worst harmful.

Parents must be aware that once the child is on the district’s radar, it’s very hard to get them off. The district may be relying on investigator’s reports or even something your child said at school. If you try to explain, the district may still see what it wants to see—a residency fraud.

Speaking to the school yourself may also make your attorney’s job harder as the attorney must now undo the damage.

If have a school residency issue, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation in its most favorable light. Even if your child is not a lawful school resident, an attorney can help negotiate a settlement with the district.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“CAN MY CHILD LIVE WITH MY RELATIVE?”: SCHOOL RESIDENCY IN ILLINOIS

Like any good parent, you want your child to have the best education possible. Unfortunately, the school district where you live just doesn’t cut it. You do have a family member, however, such as a parent, an aunt or an uncle, that happens to live in a great school district. Can you send your child to live with them?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. The child’s residence is deemed to be with the person who has legal custody. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).)

So why not give legal custody to your relative?

Under Illinois law, you cannot send your child to live in a school district for the sole purpose of attending that district’s schools. You must have other, more compelling reasons to appoint your relative as the child’s guardian. Perhaps you are unable to care for your child, and your relative is really providing a stable home. Perhaps the child is living with the relative because you cannot afford to support them.

The Illinois court has ruled in favor of a child attending his aunt’s Illinois school district where the parents sent the child from Mexico because of greater social and economic opportunities. In another case, the children lived with their aunt after their mother’s remarriage because the new husband did not want the children in his home.

However, the Illinois Supreme court ruled against one family where a sister moved in with her brother because she preferred to live with him and to help care for his infant children. The Illinois court was not convinced, finding that the sister lived with the brother for the sole purpose of attending school.

If you receive a notice about your child’s residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation to the school in its most favorable light. Do not try to handle the matter yourself. What you believe is a right to enroll your children in school may instead violate Illinois law. You could make incriminating statements. Plus, a school hearing officer is more likely to rule for the school if you represent yourself. Your child may be barred from attending that district, and you could face a hefty tuition bill as well as criminal charges.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE POSTED THAT!:” SOCIAL MEDIA AND SCHOOL RESIDENCY

Most parents are vaguely aware of the dangers of social media such as Facebook, at least when it comes to their kids. Ill-advised remarks or embarrassing photos on a Facebook page can lead to your child’s suspension at school or rejection from a college.

But students are not the only ones who must watch what they do in cyber world. Parents in danger of a school residency challenge should post with care. Recently, a Tennessee mother frustrated with her sons let the residency cat out of the bag. (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

In the Tennessee incident, high school athletic association rules required that all members of a family reside within the county in order for students to be eligible to play on the high school football team. The two sons had transferred to the new school, and the team had won several games. Then, the athletic association learned that the sons were not eligible for the new school’s team as the mother was still living in the original school’s county. And officials learned this fact from the mother’s own Facebook post:

“… the mother actually works in Henry County, and she posted on her Facebook page that she sent the kids back to Perry County for the week and that she would not see them again until Friday night….Then, later on her Facebook page, she posted, ‘How can two boys mess up their room as badly as they do when they’re only here on Saturday and Sunday?'” (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

As a result, the team’s first three wins of the season were vacated. The story even made the United Kingdom Daily Mail. That is pretty embarrassing, but in suburban Chicago, the consequences could have been much more severe. Suburban schools are actively on the watch for students who do not legitimately reside in their district. Any parent who gives false information about their residency to a school can be charged with a criminal offense. Non-resident students can be removed from school and their parents can be stuck with a steep tuition bill.

If you have questions about this or another school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

REGISTERING YOUR CHILD FOR SCHOOL CAN BE RISKY BUSINESS

It’s back to school time for many families, and along with it comes the hassle of registration. But as financial pressures on schools increase, so does the pressure to ensure that only residents of a school district are attending the school.

This means stiffer requirements on parents to prove residency in their school district. Worse still, more and more schools are suing parents for tuition and pressing criminal charges.

If you lie about your residency status to a school district in Illinois, you can be charged with providing false information, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. One Ohio mother was jailed for 9 days for tampering with official records, according to the Chicago Tribune. In Illinois, Orland Park successfully prosecuted a father for providing false information about residency to its district and is now suing to recoup $24,208 in tuition costs.

Because a criminal case has a higher burden of proof than a civil case, it is critical that you fight the criminal case. Once you are found guilty of lying in the criminal case, that finding might be binding in the civil case. You may not be able to reopen the question of your guilt. Parents can be liable for 110% of the cost of educating their child.

Of course, not all parents accused of wrongfully registering their children are guilty. There can be some very good reasons why you don’t appear to live in the district when you actually do. Maybe you can no longer afford your home in your old district, but have been unable to sell it. Maybe you don’t have a lot of personal belongings, so that your home doesn’t look “lived in” enough. Maybe you have a unique parenting arrangement.

In any case, if you are presented with the notice from the school that your child is wrongfully enrolled, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the matter yourself. Schools, at times, look for what they want to hear and may use your statements against you. An attorney can assess what evidence is necessary to prove you are a resident. Even if you are in the wrong, an attorney may be able to work out a deal with the school on your behalf.

If you have questions about this or another criminal or school law matter, contact Matt Keenan at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHY YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY FOR A SCHOOL RESIDENCY HEARING

You just received notice from your child’s school that they believe your child is not a legitimate resident of your district. You request a hearing on the matter. You believe you have nothing to fear since the truth is on your side, and once you explain your circumstances, you are sure the whole thing will simply go away.

Unfortunately, you go through the hearing, and to your surprise, the district hands you a tuition bill and removes your child from registration.

Time and time again, my clients call me after they have already gone through the residency hearing where I could have helped them the most cost-effectively. They naively believe if they can explain their situation, the school district will see the truth. Unfortunately, such clients misunderstand the reality of the school hearing process.

Once a hearing is requested, the school district appoints a hearing officer. At times, the hearing officer may be one of the district’s staff and can hardly be expected to render an unbiased decision. At times, the school appoints an independent hearing officer.

What the parent fails to understand is that either way the hearing officer benefits most by finding a reason to uphold the school’s position. After all, the school pays the hearing officer and may retain them on future cases if things go well. By the time the matter comes to hearing, the school has virtually made up its mind. If the hearing officer wants to keep getting appointments, he or she would do well to find a peg to hang the school’s hat on.

When a parent appears without an attorney, this signals the school district that the parent is not willing to put serious money behind their fight. Odds are once the hearing officer rules, the parent will not appeal that decision. Hence, the hearing officer believes the school has nothing to lose even if the decision is wrong.

This is not to say that hearing officers are corrupt and dishonest. There are many fine individuals who take their jobs seriously. But the reality is they are more likely to keep getting that job if they see the school’s point of view.

Coming to the hearing with an attorney can signal that you are serious about contesting the school’s finding. An attorney can also help present the evidence most favorable to your case.

If you have questions about this or another school law topic, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email
matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

“I AM DIVORCED. WHERE CAN MY CHILD GO TO SCHOOL?”: ILLINOIS RESIDENCY LAW

You and your spouse are divorced. You get along exceptionally well, so well that you share custody of your child. Since you live in the better school district, you enrolled your child where you live. Now, you have received notice from the school that they believe your child is not truly a resident and they wish to remove your child from enrollment.

What are your rights and what can you do?

In Illinois, a child has a right to a tuition-free education in the district where the child’s parent or guardian resides. A guardianship may not be awarded to a friend or non-parent relative solely to allow the child to attend school in a given district. In other words, you cannot give your sister legal custody of your child for the sole purpose of your child attending school in your sister’s district.

If you are divorced and have legal custody by court order, your child may attend school in your district. This does not always prevent some schools from developing suspicions about your child’s actual residence, however, and you may still have to prove that your child’s fixed nighttime abode is actually with you and not the other parent.

The situation can become more complicated if you have joint custody, or if you and the other parent were never married, but informally share custody of the child. The Illinois school statute does not seem to have contemplated such modern beneficial living arrangements. After all, if your child splits their time between parents, how do you prove which home is your child’s real nighttime abode? Fortunately, in situations with joint custody, you are generally allowed to make an election once a year as to which residence controls for school purposes. If you have no formal custody arrangement, the situation can become more problematic. You may still have to prove which parent’s residence should control.

If the school believes your child is not a resident, the school must first send you notice by certified mail. You then have ten days to request a formal hearing to provide the evidence necessary to show where your child actually lives. We advise that you have an attorney assist you with the hearing as school districts sometimes take advantage of unrepresented parents who believe the matter should be simple since they have nothing to hide. If the parent loses the hearing, the school may remove deregister your child and even charge the parent tuition.

If you have any questions about this or a similar school-related issue, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.