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.


You were at a party at your friend’s house, while his parents were out of town You were swigging on some beer having a blast, when someone took a picture. Next thing you know, someone emailed that picture to your high school principal, and now the school is threatening to suspend you.

How is that possible? What are your options?

The reality is that schools have a lot of leeway in disciplining someone for violating their rules, even if the student is off school grounds. If the event is somehow school sanctioned or initiated, like a parade or a club, you can be held responsible even though you weren’t at school. One important Supreme Court decision upheld the disclipline of an Alaska student for marching in a school parade with the sign “Bong Hits for Jesus.” The Supreme Court felt that since it was a school parade, the school had a valid interest in preventing the promotion of drug use. Therefore, the student did not have First Amendment rights and could be punished.

While usually there is some connection between the school and the student’s actions, that is not always the case. The party in the example above is not connected to the school in any way. However, some school officials take the position that once the picture is sent to them, the illegal drinking has come into the school and is now open to discipline. This can be true even when the person only sent the photo to get you in trouble.

The Glenbrook Powder Puff case is a locally famous example. At a “powder puff” football game, some seniors bullied junior students in several ways including kicking, beating and spraying them with animal urine. While the acts did not take place on school grounds nor at a school-sanctioned event, the district suspended the girls under its hazing policy.

If you should find yourself in one of these situations, the best thing to do is contact an attorney immediately for advice. Maybe there is some question about whether you actually committed the acts being disciplined. Or maybe the school has failed to follow its own discipline procedures. A careful review of school policy can sometimes yield a solid avenue for a defense. A skilled attorney can help you navigate through this minefield and help improve the outcome.


Like many parents, you want your child to have the best possible education, but maybe your local school district just isn’t the answer. So you try other options. Maybe you are thinking of buying property in a better school district and living there with your child part time. Maybe you have a relative, and you can send your child to live with them. Can you do this without being handed a tuition bill from the new school district?

Local school districts will send out detectives to determine if a family resides where they say they live. You might get handed a notice that your children are not residents of a district, even if you do in fact live there. Families that own property outside a school district should be particularly careful.

In Illinois, the residence of a student is defined as being the residence of the person who has legal custody. This can be a guardian as long as the guardian does not have custody solely so that the child can go to school in their district. To prove residence, a family must show two things: 1) they must have physical presence in a school district and 2) they must intend to remain there on a permanent basis.

If you actually lived in a school district on the first day of the school year, but moved out on the second day, your child could attend school through the end of that school year. But if you make a residence in a school district solely to enroll your child, you could be in trouble.

Proving physical presence and an intent to make some place your permanent home can be very fact specific. In one critical Niles Township High School District 219 case, a family lived in Chicago, but purchased a condominium in Skokie. While the father and son lived at the condo during the week, they returned on weekends to the Chicago house. The father produced voter registration, utility bills, income tax returns and car registration for the Skokie condominium. But it was not enough. Because the main base of family operations was in Chicago, the Court found against the family, saying that the family did not show that they intended to make their permanent home in the Skokie condo. All family holidays were spent in Chicago, the father and son generally ate meals there and the father had his calls forwarded from the Skokie home when he was away.

If you are served with a notice from a school district or you are thinking of purchasing a second home to take advantage of a better school system, you may want to contact me for a consultation. Contact me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160. I can help you present your case in its best light.