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Residency Issues

Published September 2018

Under Iowa Code section 282.1 a student must be a resident of the district in order to be enrolled in the district.

A “resident” for school purposes means a child who is physically present in a district, whose residence has not been established in another district by operation of law, and who meets the following conditions:

  1. Is in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school purposes;
  2. Meets the definition of a “homeless student” under state or federal law;
  3. Lives in a juvenile detention center or a residential facility in the district;

The question of residency is not always easy to determine because of the transient society that we live in.  Here is a residency matrix that can help answer whether or not a student is a resident of your district or not.

Quick, Easy-Reference Matrix for Common Residency Issues

Situation Resident? Enroll? Other remarks
Student lives with someone other than parent/guardian because of family problems or personal problems – not for school reasons. Yes – student is a resident and must be enrolled tuition-free, without requiring guardianship papers. Emergency contact – must be someone who can make a decision about the student (parent or court-appointed guardian, e.g.) OR who can quickly contact the decision-maker.

Report cards, communiqués from school still go to parent, unless parent gives written permission to school to send documents to person with whom student resides.
Same as above, but student is in district for school purposes (athletics, other extracurriculars, not doing well in former school). Not a resident; per Iowa Code section 282.6 the district must charge tuition and may not include student on certified enrollment. Same comments as above.
Same as first row, but student is in district neither for school purposes nor because of personal or family problems (e.g., student is playing in a hockey league). Depends.

Factors to consider include:
  1. Does student intend to return to parent’s home in near future? How frequently does child return to parental home to visit?
  2. Does parent furnish significant financial support for child?
  3. Does parent still have authority over child?

Most of the time, these students are not going to be residents and must be charged tuition. An exception may exist for a student who is 18 or older and who sets up his/her own household (all above questions would have to be answered in the negative).
Same comments as previously.

Creating a legal guardianship does not affect whether the student is a resident. It merely clarifies who gets information from the district and who can make decisions for a minor child
Student lives with parent(s) in District A, but is with a relative (not a parent) before and/or after school in District B. This does not establish residency in District B. If parents want student to attend District B, they must file an open enrollment request.
Student resides with court-appointed guardian. Doesn’t automatically make the student a resident for purposes of Iowa Code section 282.6; still need to determine WHY the student is in the district. The rights of a court-appointed guardian are superior to those of the parents; guardian is emergency contact and is the recipient of all documents from school.

Therefore, make sure this is a legal guardianship (as evidenced by a court order signed by a judge or by “letters of appointment” signed by clerk of court with seal of court).
Student splits time equally between parents who live in different districts. Student is a resident of both districts, but only one district gets to include the student in its September count. It’s permissible for the districts to determine which one will count the student and that district can reimburse the other. This really gets fun when the child needs special education.
Family moves into district from another country. Children in the family are residents of district, regardless of whether they are aliens and even regardless of whether the family’s presence in the U.S. is legal. U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that a free education must be provided to resident children, even if they are illegal aliens.

A district cannot require any documents from this family that it would/could not request from any other family. That is, you may ask for proofs of birthdates and relevant health information. Period.
Student with dual citizenship (of which U.S. citizenship is included) moves into district. Whether this student is a “resident” depends on why the student is in the district. If living with a parent for purposes of making a home, the student is a resident. If living with another relative or even a guardian for purposes of going to school, the student is not a resident. This student will not have a visa, because the student is a citizen. But remember that citizenship is not relevant to the issue of who is a resident.
Family refuses to give street address, just gives P.O. box. Iowa Code section 282.6 requires district to charge tuition; without proof of residency (P.O. Box is NOT proof of residency in district), charge tuition and hope that gets the parents’ attention. There are legitimate reasons why a family would want its street address kept confidential; however, districts must have proof of residency and can still take measures to protect this information.
Student lives with a foster family. Is a resident of the district for purposes of receiving a tuition-free education. Under Iowa law, foster parents are not guardians (unless there is a separate order). DHS is custodian for placement in foster care; unless parental rights have been terminated by a court, the natural parents still have right to participate in meetings and receive reports.

Call local DHS office (the one that made the placement) to get some guidance in writing.