Q: I’m an Ohio resident and taxpayer. Isn’t my child entitled to a free public education in any Ohio public school district I choose?
A: No. The general rule in Ohio is that a child who is at least five but under 22 years of age and any “disabled” preschool child (including, for example, children who have physical, developmental, speech or hearing disabilities) may be admitted tuition-free only to the schools of the school district in which his or her parent lives. One important exception is for a special education student who may attend school in the school district where he or she lives, regardless of where the parent lives. Some school districts also may allow the children of nonresident parents to attend as long as tuition is paid.
Q: My divorce just became final. My wife was awarded custody of our children and moved with the children to a nearby school district. I still live in the same school district as before the divorce. Where can my kids go to school?
A: When a child’s parents are separated or divorced or when their marriage has been dissolved or annulled, the child generally may attend school tuition free only in the school district of the parent who has been named the residential parent and legal custodian of the child—in your case, the district where your former wife now lives.
Q: My husband and I are divorcing, and it appears we’ll have shared custody of our daughter under a shared parenting plan. My husband has moved to another school district. Will our daughter be able to enroll in either district?
A: Since you and your husband have joint custody of your daughter and a shared parenting plan is in place, your daughter will be able to enroll in either school district, free of charge, regardless of where your daughter is staying at any particular time.
Q: My grandson, whose parents live in another school district in Ohio, has come to live with me. Can I enroll him in my school district while he’s living with me?
A: You may be able to. In July 2004, Ohio law changed to make it easier for grandparents to enroll their grandchildren in the school district in which the grandparents live. If your grandson is living with you and you are able to contact his parents, the parents may execute a caretaker Power of Attorney (POA) giving you the authority to enroll the child in school and to make educational and health care decisions on behalf of your grandson. If you are unable to contact your grandson’s parents after reasonable effort, you may execute a Caretaker Authorization Affidavit (CAA) that gives you the authority to enroll your grandson in school and to make educational and health care decisions on your grandson’s behalf. There are various requirements for both the POA and CAA, including notarization by an Ohio notary. The forms are valid for 12 months unless a parent terminates them earlier, the child leaves the grandparent's home, or a court terminates the POA or CAA. The forms may be available through the juvenile court in your county and they must be filed with that juvenile court or another court with authority over the child, such as a domestic relations or probate court. These forms also must be presented to the school at the time of your grandson’s enrollment.
Another way of getting your grandchild enrolled in your school district is for the boards of education of the two school districts to agree. If your grandson is under age 22, and is living with you even though his parents have custody, he may attend school in your school district if, first, the boards of education of your school district and his parents’ school district enter into a written agreement that: 1) says there is a good reason for your grandson to go to school in your district; 2) describes this good reason; and 3) consents to your grandson’s attendance. This arrangement is often called a “Grandparent’s Agreement.”
A third option might apply if you have tried to get legal custody of your grandson. Ohio law allows your grandson to be enrolled in your school district tuition-free for not more than 60 days if you give a sworn statement that you have started legal proceedings for custody. If custody proceedings are completed within that 60-day period, then your grandson can continue to attend school in your district, and your school district will charge tuition to the school district where his parents live. If custody proceedings have not been completed within 60 days and if there is no Grandparent’s Agreement, then you may have to pay tuition so that your grandson can continue attending school in your district.
Remember that, if your grandson needs special education services, then he may attend school in your school district tuition-free while he lives with you regardless of custody issues or whether a Grandparent’s Agreement is in place.
Q: Our son, a single parent, recently was called to active military duty in Afghanistan. We are caring for our granddaughter while he is away. Can she attend school in the district where we live?
A: Yes, as long as certain requirements are met. In 2005, Ohio law was changed to mirror federal law. Now, Ohio law allows your granddaughter to attend school in your district if your son is called to active duty. Your son simply needs to appoint you as his agent for the care, custody and control of your granddaughter while he is on active duty, using a military power of attorney, or comparable document. The military power of attorney is valid until the end of the school year in which the military power of attorney expires.
Q: We are building a new house in a nearby school district. We would like our daughter to start going to school in that school district now so that the transition will be easier when we actually move in. Can we do this?
A: Yes. If your daughter is under age 22, she may attend school tuition free for up to 90 days in the district where the new house is being built, if you give the superintendent of the new school district: 1) a sworn statement explaining the situation, revealing the location of the house being built, and stating your intention to live there upon its completion; and 2) a statement from the builder confirming that a new house is being built for you and that the house is where you say it is.
Q: Two weeks into my son’s senior year in high school, we learned that my husband is being transferred to a town 60 miles away. Can my son finish high school where he is right now?
A: Yes. As long as your son is under age 22 and you move after the beginning of his senior year of high school, he may attend school in his old school district for the rest of the school year and for one additional semester or equivalent term, with the board of education’s approval.
This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was originally prepared by Katherine F. Dolan, Esq., and was updated by attorney Nicole Donovsky, with the Columbus firm of Means Bichimer Burkholder & Baker Co.