Hundreds of times a year, the phone rings at one desk in the state education department…and it’s a call from somebody wanting to know if a child can go to school in a particular district. The answer is not always easy and recently became unfortunate.
The director of school governance for the state, Tom Quinn, says he gets 750 to one-thousand of those calls a year. The law says children should attend classes in the school district where they live.
A definition of "resident" of a school district can be hard to pin down. Homeless children? Residency laws don’t apply. A child not living with a parent or guardian. Parents divorce and live in separate districts with joint custody. A 17-year old moves out of the house, or is kicked out–who’s responsible for the child? How does the child afford school?
And those are just a few issues in the eligibility issue.
In St. Louis County, the Ladue district has kicked out two brothers because the boys don’t live in the district. Their mother lives in Hazelwood. The father and the boys are staying in a house in Olivette, which is part of the Ladue district. But that’s only until the house is sold.
Quinn says the bottom line is that every child is entitled to an education from age five to 21 and the only way that education can be denied is through a violation of discipline policy. At the same time though, he says, each district has the power to determine who non-residents are.
Sometimes definitions are hard to make; decisions have painful consequences; and answers are hard to discover.
(You can hear more of Tom Quinn’s discussion with Bob Priddy below)