Friday, August 5, 2011

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. See our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.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.)

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