County residency rule unfairly punishes children

having your say

August 29, 2008|By Sarah Morgan

The Baltimore County school system's new residency verification policy threatens the basic right of children to attend school.

As The Baltimore Sun reported this week, students in Baltimore County will be withdrawn from school if their parents haven't verified their residence in the county before the deadline.

The county requires parents to produce five different documents to prove residency, some of which can be difficult for parents to obtain (such as a landlord's deed for those renting from a private landlord).

When a parent, for whatever reason, does not bring the requested paperwork to the school, the school system apparently presumes nonresidency and summarily disenrolls the child.

Prudence alone suggests that school system should undertake an investigation of residency and allow the child to remain in school in the interim. That way, the county would avoid removing children from school who may actually live in the county and have the right to attend county schools.

Baltimore County's new policy is also troubling because of its apparent disregard for basic due process rights.

While the article does not mention a right of appeal for aggrieved students and their families, the school system's own established procedures are clear that parents have the right to appeal residency decisions and withdrawals; indeed, under Rule 5150, students have the right to remain in school until such appeals are resolved.

By punishing students for their parents' failure to clear a bureaucratic hurdle - without an investigation and without the right to appeal - the new policy strikes the wrong balance between children's rights to be in school and the responsibility of the school system to verify residency.

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