Superintendent's Memo #216-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

August 12, 2011

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Student Enrollment Requirements

As you prepare for the 2011-2012 school year, I want to take the opportunity to remind you about certain enrollment requirements. Please distribute this information as widely as possible throughout your school division.

Residency

Code of Virginia §22.1-3 provides that the public schools in each school division shall be free to each person of school age who resides within the school division. A student is deemed a resident of a school division and entitled to enroll in school if he or she is living with a natural parent. A court order or proof of custody cannot be required of a natural parent for the enrollment of a student who is living with him/her. Please see §22.1-3 for other instances under which a student is deemed a resident and entitled to enrollment.

Questions have arisen regarding a local school board's authority to inquire into a prospective student's citizenship or visa status and to bar enrollment to those students who reside within the school division but do not hold a student visa. Pursuant to a decision by the United States Supreme Court, Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), school divisions are required to accept students who meet residency requirements under §22.1-3 of the Code and may not deny a free public education to undocumented school-age children who reside within their jurisdiction because they do not hold valid United States citizenship or a student visa.

On May 6, 2011, the United States Department of Education (USED) in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) issued an advisory letter reminding educational agencies that under Federal law, state and local educational agencies are required to provide all children with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary levels.  In the advisory letter, USED and USDOJ indicated that they had become aware of student enrollment practices that may discourage or lead to the exclusion of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ citizenship or immigration status.  We shared this guidance with you via Superintendent’s E-mail on May 16, 2011, and this guidance is applicable to the 2011-2012 school year.

Enrollment Determinations – Commission on Youth Recommendation

In 2010, the Commission on Youth adopted the following recommendation related to K-12 education:

Request the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) to issue a Superintendent’s Memorandum outlining the Attorney Generals Opinions which state local school divisions may not refuse to provide free education to bona fide residents and that enrollment determinations be made based on all pertinent facts.  

In conveying its recommendation to the Department, the Commission requested that the two opinions from the Office of the Attorney General be shared with school divisions, as these opinions provided guidance on enrollment issues.  On December 18, 1987, the Office of the Attorney General issued an opinion regarding guardianship orders. On June 14, 2007, the Office of the Attorney General issued an opinion regarding the availability of a free education for a child who is in the legal custody of someone other than the parent.  You will find these opinions along with a listing of all related K-12 opinions on the Department’s Web site at:  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/legislation/attorney_general_opinions.pdf.

Students with a Parent or Parents in the Military

A student is deemed a resident of a school division and cannot be denied admission or charged tuition if the student is living with an individual who is defined as a parent, not solely for school purposes, pursuant to a Special Power of Attorney executed under Title 10, United States Code, § 1044b, by the custodial parent while such custodial parent is deployed outside the United States as a member of the Virginia National Guard or as a member of the United States Armed Forces. When practicable, such students may continue to attend school in the school division they attended immediately prior to the deployment without paying tuition for attending school in that division. 

Virginia is a member of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  The purpose of the Compact (§ 22.1-360, Code of Virginia) is to streamline the transfer of children of military families into Virginia public schools.  Specifically, the Compact addresses the following:  1) records and enrollment (Article IV), which contains provisions regarding record transfers, immunizations, and school entrance age; 2) placement and attendance (Article V), which contains provisions regarding course and program placement and special education services; 3) eligibility (Article VI), which addresses documentation requirements for enrollment; and 4) graduation (Article VII), which addresses how receiving school divisions will facilitate the on-time graduation of military transfer students.

For additional information about the enrollment of students of military families, please see the Department’s Web page at   http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/student_family/military/index.shtml for more information.  The section labeled ‘Guidance Documents for Military Families’ contains a listing of all related superintendent’s memorandum and other enrollment resources. 

Social Security Numbers

School divisions may not refuse to enroll a student whose parent does not furnish a social security number for that student. If your enrollment forms include a space for a social security number, you must explain to the parent that they are not required to provide the number, why you want the number, and how it will be used.  You must also explain any effect not providing the number will have. The division superintendent or his designee may assign another identifying number or waive the requirement if a parent is unwilling to present a social security number for the child.  Please see federal Public Law 93-579 and § 22.1-260 of the Code for additional information.

Homeless Students

School divisions must immediately enroll homeless students. School divisions must coordinate the provision of services to homeless students with relevant local social services agencies and other agencies and programs providing services to such students, and with other school divisions. Superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students. School divisions must immediately refer the student to the school division liaison required to assist the student in obtaining necessary physical examinations or proof of completion of immunizations.  For more information regarding the enrollment of homeless students, please visit:  http://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/.

Students in Foster Care

A student who has been placed in foster care by a local social services agency shall be immediately enrolled even if the placing social services agency is unable to produce the documents required for enrollment. In such cases, the person enrolling the student must provide a written statement at the time of enrollment. See §22.1-3.4 of the Code of Virginia for additional information regarding the enrollment of students in foster care.

Comprehensive Preschool Physical Examination

Section 22.1-270 of the Code of Virginia precludes the admission of students for the first time to any public kindergarten or elementary school in a school division unless the student furnishes either a report of a comprehensive physical examination from a qualified licensed physician, or a licensed nurse practitioner or licensed physician assistant acting under the supervision of a licensed physician. The examination must be of the scope prescribed by the State Health Commissioner and must have been performed within 12 months before the date the student first enters the public school. In the alternative, students may provide records showing that they furnished such a report upon admission to another school or school division and provide the information that was contained in that report. Please note that while the report of the comprehensive physical examination must contain the elements prescribed by the State Health Commissioner, state law does not require it to be on the School Entrance Health Form, MCH 213F, to be accepted by the local school board. Therefore, school divisions cannot deny enrollment to a student who provides the necessary report on a different form. Section 22.1-270 also includes special provisions for homeless students as well as an exemption from the physical examination for students whose parents object for religious reasons. Additionally, §22.1-3.4 of the Code provides specific requirements for the immediate enrollment of children in foster care who do not have the requisite physical examination report.  For more information, please refer to the following superintendent’s memorandum issued on April 29, 2011:  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/administrators/superintendents_memos/2011/124-11.shtml.

You may reference Virginia Code § 22.1-1, §22.1-3, and § 22.1-5 for enrollment information. It provides more details regarding requirements related to school age and residency in a school division. I hope you will find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Policy, at (804) 225-2403, or by e-mail at policy@doe.virginia.gov, if you need additional information.

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