“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.)

PAYING TAXES IS NOT ENOUGH: ILLINOIS SCHOOL RESIDENCY

The city where you live does not have good schools. You really want to send your child to a neighboring school district, but you do not live there. You do, however, own some rental property. Or maybe, you are thinking of purchasing rental property in that district. You figure, you pay the taxes, shouldn’t your child be allowed to attend the schools?

In Illinois, the answer is no. While it may not seem fair, paying real estate taxes is not enough to establish residency for school purposes.

The Illinois Supreme Court dealt squarely with this issue in Connelly by Connelly v Gibbs. A Chicago family wanted to obtain the improved special education services available to Skokie’s District 219 residents. Therefore, the family bought a condo in Skokie. The father and son lived in the condo during the week, but returned home on weekends. The Court specifically rejected this arrangement. Even though the family owned real estate in Skokie and paid real estate taxes for Skokie schools, the Court said that the Skokie residence was not the student’s “regular fixed, nighttime abode.” Furthermore, the family could not live in the condo for the sole purpose of going to school. Therefore, the son could not attend the schools and the family could be charged tuition.

Based on this case, Illinois residents can only send their children tuition free to the district where they intend to make a permanent home with a fixed nighttime abode, but not solely for the purpose of going to school. Owning real estate or even leasing an apartment in another community is not enough to establish school residency.

If you receive notice from your child’s school disputing your residency, do not attempt to handle this matter yourself. Parents often make incriminating statements that could cost them thousands of dollars in tuition money. While we never advise any client to lie or perpetuate a fraud on the school district, which is a criminal act, an experienced school law attorney can help you present your case in the best light. If you are a legitimate resident, an attorney can help establish that with the school district. If you are not, the attorney may be able to help minimize the costs to you.

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.)

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.