John Roska: Registering a student in school

John Roska: Registering a student in school

Q: What's required to register a student in school? Can schools require birth certificates and Social Security numbers? What if a student doesn't have them?

A: Four different proofs are required to register a student: of health-related exams, immunizations, age and residency,

Proving health exams and immunizations is done through forms signed by official "health care providers." Proving age and residency can be done in a variety of ways.

And while schools can ask for Social Security numbers, they can't require them.

Different kinds of health exams are required at different grade levels. Kids first entering school in kindergarten or first grade must provide proof of health, eye and dental exams. Second-graders must provide dental exams. Sixth-graders must provide new health and dental exams, and ninth-graders must provide health exams.

Proof of immunizations is complicated, but generally tags along with the proof of the required health exams.

Students can be barred from school if they don't provide the required proof of health exams by Oct. 15. Schools can withhold report cards for not providing proof of dental or eye exams, but they can't exclude kids from class.

Proof of age is required to make sure kids aren't too young to enroll (age 6 before Sept. 1), or too old (21 if they've never dropped out; 19 if they have). It's also used to place students at the right level.

A birth certificate usually provides proof of age. But schools can't stop kids from enrolling if they don't have one, or have one from a foreign country. The U.S. Department of Education says proof of age can also come from "a religious, hospital or physician's certificate showing date of birth; an entry in a family bible; an adoption record; an affidavit from a parent" and "previously verified school records."

The Department of Education is sensitive about this because a 1982 Supreme Court case said that noncitizen students — even undocumented — can't be denied the same education as citizen students. Schools therefore can't require anything that discourages noncitizens from enrolling.

That applies to proof of residency, too. It can be documented lots of different ways, but not in some way that deters kids from enrolling because they or their parents are not here legally.

So schools can request but not require things like driver's licenses from parents to prove residency, or state IDs from either students or parents. Same with Social Security numbers (which don't prove either age or residency). Schools can't require them.

The Illinois State Board of Education website puts it this way: "Districts must not apply inflexible rules to determine residency." They can't, for example, require "court papers" proving guardianship or custody.

When all else fails, a simple "Affidavit of Enrollment and Residency," signed by an adult, can prove residency. It's Form 85-51 on the ISBE's website.

Finally, schools must enroll homeless kids "even if the child or youth is unable to produce records normally required for enrollment, such as previous academic records, medical records, proof of residency or other documentation."

John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.

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