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:
- Parent or legal guardian is seriously ill or in jail.
- Parent or legal guardian has completely given up control of the child and does not support them, or visit with them.
- Parents have abused or neglected the child.
- Parents are mentally or physically ill and cannot care for or supervise the child.
- Parent is homeless, or the child is homeless.
- 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 www.sclegal.org to apply for our services.