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

(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.)