School Enrollment

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. In August, most schools in South Carolina will start the process of enrolling students for the new school year. School enrollment can be difficult for many low-income parents and caretakers of children. School fees seem to increase every year and paying these fees can be a struggle to a family with a tight budget. If your family receives SNAP benefits, or your children qualify for free or reduced lunch, you can have your school enrollment fees waived. Some schools do this automatically every year, while other school parents need to ask about the waiver of these fees. Many schools will try to get you to agree to a payment plan, if you can afford that you can agree to it. But if you can not afford a payment plan speak up and tell the school that you can not afford it. Those fees can be waived.

The other big concern facing caretakers and parents this time of year is how to actually get students enrolled. Schools can ask for proof of residency, meaning proof of where you live. This can get complicated if you are staying with friends or maybe living in a motel, or shelter. Schools can not refuse to enroll your child if you live in a motel, shelter, or stay with friends or family. There is a federal law called McKinney Vento that allows children without fixed, adequate nighttime housing to be enrolled in school. Each school district has a McKinney Vento coordinator and you can ask to speak to this person to get your student enrolled.

Schools may also require proof of a child’s age to enroll them in school. The easiest way to do this is a birth certificate, but there are lots of legitimate reasons why a family may not be able to provide a child’s birth certificate. The school can not require you to provide a birth certificate if you have some other proof of the child’s age. Official documents that have a child’s age listed are medical records, or immunization records.

Sometimes children live with people other than their parents. If someone other than a custodial parent tries to enroll a child, they maybe told that the child cannot be enrolled without a custody order. Custody is a complicated and expensive legal process and filing for it may not be the right thing for your situation. You do not need a custody order if a child lives with you because of one of the following reasons:

  1. Parent or legal guardian is seriously ill or in jail.
  2. Parent or legal guardian has completely given up control of the child and does not support them, or visit with them.
  3. Parents have abused or neglected the child.
  4. Parents are mentally or physically ill and cannot care for or supervise the child.
  5. Parent is homeless, or the child is homeless.
  6. Parent has been deployed to military or active duty for more than 60 days and more than 70 miles away from their residence.

Instead of a custody order, you can enroll the child by using a School Enrollment Affidavit. The school can provide you one of these upon your request. Once the school district is presented with the affidavit, they must immediately enroll the child. If you are requesting a school enrollment affidavit, it is best to request them from the district office rather than the individual school. . If you need one of our attorneys to assist you with any of this process you may call our toll free number at 888-346-5592 or go on line at to apply for our services.

Tips For Students With A Learning Disability

March is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. If you are a parent/guardian of a student who might have a learning disability, the Education Unit at SCLS would like you to know the following:

– A child with a “specific learning disability” is entitled to free special education services at their home school district.

– If your child is consistently underperforming on state tests and/or is struggling in basic subjects like math or English Language Arts, they might have a learning disability.

– To be classified as having a “specific learning disability” or “SLD”, you must first request the school district to test or “evaluate” your child

o The request should be done in writing.

o The request should explain why you want the evaluation – namely, that you believe your child has a learning disability and qualifies for an Individualized Education Program or “IEP”

o The request should have the student’s name, date of birth, school, as well as the parent/guardian’s information

o If you would like assistance with drafting this request, apply for our services. If you qualify, WE CAN HELP!

– In most cases, prior to an evaluation, the school district will place your child in a “Response to Intervention” or “RTI” program. In RTI, your child will receive some special instruction to try and get them caught-up and performing at their grade-level.

o If your child responds well and begins to perform at their grade-level, GREAT! It is likely they do not have a learning disability.

o If your child does not respond well, and continues to perform poorly at school and/or on state tests, you should insist on moving forward with the evaluation

– The evaluation is technically called a “psychoeducational evaluation.” It’s performed by a school psychologist at your child’s school over the course of a few days. You will have to sign some paperwork to authorize the test.

o The school district has 60 days to complete this evaluation. There is no exception for holidays or summer break.

– Once the evaluation is complete, the school district will invite you to a meeting to review the results.

o If the school district believes your child has a specific learning disability, the team (which includes you!) will then develop an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to address your child’s needs. Specifically, the team will develop goals for your child and explain the amount of special education time they will need to complete those goals.

o If the school district does not believe your child has a specific learning disability, and therefore does not qualify for an IEP, you have the following options:

§ Insist on further RTI “(Response to Intervention”) services.

§ Request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) of the school, in writing. An IEE is an evaluation done by a qualified professional who is not employed by the school, and who you get to choose. The school district will have to pay for this evaluation.

§ Hire an attorney, including applying for our services. If you qualify, WE CAN HELP!

The Education Unit at SCLS is always here to help qualified parents/guardians with their education-related programs. If you need some basic advice, apply! If you need someone to explain the process, or your options, apply! If you believe you need to file a lawsuit against the school district, apply! You can apply for help by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying is any act intended or that should be reasonably intended to hurt or harm another person that is usually repeated or occurs more than once. Everyone (students, employees, and volunteers) who witnesses bullying or harassment in public schools or even outside of schools when it causes a major disruption in school has a duty to report it to the principal or other appropriate persons.  Unfortunately, society seems to reserve the term bullying for behavior associated with youth.  However, bullying can be found in relationships of all ages and in all social groups.  Adults can be victims of bullying and harassment in many settings: online, at home, at school and at work.  We can identify some forms of bullying as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment and racial discrimination.  

People react differently in an undesirable situation when they perceive that nothing can be changed.  However, there will be a reaction. For victims of bullying, we do not know if the reaction will be internal, external, or a combination of both.  According to a 2017 report by the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, in South Carolina, suicide was the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death for children ages 15 to 17.  The Committee on Children also reported that the number of high school students that attempted suicide in South Carolina was significantly higher than the national percentage.  Bullying is not the cause of all suicides, but it can cause or increase mental health disorders.  Also, it is common for bullying or harassment to be mentioned as a trigger for extreme responses such as behavioral issues in school or even school shootings.

Perhaps, if we want to prevent bullying, we should remember, bullying is not something that only happens to children in public schools.  It is a form of abuse similar to domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment, racial discrimination and others.  We observe bullying in many forms and cultures, and we become desensitized to it.  It is difficult to prevent or stop, but we should not stop trying. If you need free legal assistance to combat aggression or bullying in any form, apply at South Carolina Legal Services by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at Our eligibility for free legal help depends on your income and your legal problem.