GENERAL RULE: You must be a resident of a public school district to go to school there.
You are a resident of the public school district where your parent or guardian with custody lives.
But, if you are 18, you are a legal adult. As a legal adult, you are a resident of the public school district where you live. Also, if you are legally emancipated, you are a resident of the school district where you live. If you are 18 or if you are legally emancipated, it does not matter where you parents live.
COMMON EXCEPTIONSWhat if I am homeless?
If you are homeless, you can choose between two schools:
- your school of origin (the school you were going to before you became homeless), or
- your school of current location (the school where you are currently staying)
There should be no delay for any reason in you going to the public school that you chose. The school must provide for your transportation.
“Homeless” has a broad definition. You must not have a“fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” This means if you are doubled up with relatives or friends, staying in a shelter or motel (even with your parents), living in transitional housing, a campground, an unsafe trailer, a car or an abandoned building, or living on the streets or other public place, you are homeless for school purposes.
What if I am in DHHS custody?
You are a resident of the school district where you are placed by DHHS. But, if you are placed with someone who is not your parent or legal guardian, then DHHS, the Department of Education, and the school district can decide what school district is in your best interest to attend. They will choose between the school you were going to and the school where you are laced. If you are going to stay at the school you were going to, DHHS must arrange and pay for your transportation to and from that school. Talk to your DHHS worker and your guardian ad litem (GAL) about what school you think is in your best interest to attend.
What if I am living with someone other than my parent or legal guardian?
If you are not living with your parent or legal guardian but you are living with someone else, you may be able to go to the school where you are living. You can do this without getting a legal guardian. The superintendent of the public school district you want to go to makes this decision. The superintendent must decide that it is in your best interests to go to that school. When making this decision, the superintendent must find that:
- You are not living in that school district just to go to school there, and
- It is undesirable and impractical for you to live with either of your parents, or there is safety reason for why you are not living with your parents, or there are other extenuating circumstances that explain why you are living in the school district.
Example: You are 15-years-old and living with your grandmother. You don’t know where your father lives. Your mother was recently hospitalized or was sent to jail. In this example, you are living with your grandmother because you cannot live with either of your parents. You have nowhere else to go, and your grandmother is taking care of you.
How do I get the Superintendent to decide?
The adult you are living with should write to the superintendent to ask that you be allowed to go to school there. The letter should explain why you are not living with your parents and why you are living with him or her. The letter should also ask the superintendent to decide that it is in your best interests to go to that school.
Someone at the school must to try to contact one of your parents to let them know that this request was made. The superintendent may also call the school you used to go to to find out more about you and your situation.
The superintendent has 10 days to make a decision from when he or she gets the letter asking that you be allowed to go to the school where you are living.
If you have questions, call KIDS LEGAL.
What if the Superintendent says no?
The superintendent must say yes or no. If the superintendent says no, he or she must give the person who asked that you be able to go to school a written denial. The notice must say:
· The reasons why the superintendent said no, and
· That there is a right to appeal to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.
To appeal, either the person who asked the Superintendent to let you go to school or your parent(s) can send a letter to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. The letter needs to ask that the Commissioner review and overturn the Superintendent’s decision. The Commissioner must make a decision within one week of receiving the appeal letter.
If you have questions, call KIDS LEGAL.
What if I want to transfer schools?
To transfer to another school district, the superintendents of both public school districts must agree. They must decide that:
- It is in your best interest to transfer, and
- Your parent agrees to your transfer.
Request the transfer in writing and explain why it is in your best interest to go to a different school. If the superintendents decide you can transfer schools, that decision is reviewed every year. This means that you are not automatically allowed to stay at the other school forever. To continue going to the transfer school, there are usually conditions you have to follow, such as have good attendance and not get in trouble. If you break those conditions, you may lose the right to keep going to your transfer school. You are responsible for your own transportation to school if the transfer is approved.
If your transfer request is denied, your parent can ask the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education to review and overturn that decision.
KIDS LEGAL of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, April 2013
We are providing this information as a public service. We have tried to make it accurate as of the above date. Sometimes the laws change. We cannot promise that this information is always up-to-date and correct. If the above date is not this year, call us to see if there is an update. This information is not legal advice. By sending you this, we are not acting as your lawyer. Always consult with a lawyer, if you can, before taking legal action.