United States: See You In Court! - October 2019

Last Updated: October 9 2019
Article by Thomas B. Mooney

Patty Parent, a single mother, came to the office at Acorn Elementary School at the beginning of the school year, asking that the office change the address for her two children.  However, when she gave her mother’s address in a neighboring school district, the administrative assistant told her that her children could no longer attend Acorn Elementary Schools because they are now apparently living in another town.  Patty Parent disagreed, however, claiming that she and her children are now homeless.  “This is above my pay grade,” the administrative assistant responded, and she told Patty Parent to go talk to the Superintendent.

Patty Parent promptly met with Mr. Superintendent, and she told a sad story.  She and her children had been living in an apartment in Nutmeg, but she had been unable to keep up with her rent payments and she was evicted.  As a result, she moved in with her mother in a neighboring town.  Patty Parent then reiterated her claim that she and her children are now homeless, and she asked that her children be permitted to continue in the Nutmeg Public Schools.  Mr. Superintendent listened carefully to Patty, but he denied her request.  “I appreciate your continued interest in the Nutmeg Public Schools,” he began, “but you have moved to another school district.  My hands are tied, and you must withdraw your children from our schools forthwith.”

Patty told Mr. Superintendent that she could not and would not withdraw her children from the Nutmeg Public Schools.  But Mr. Superintendent was unmoved.  He gave Patty a week to enroll her children in the district where she, her children and her mother are living, but he also informed her in writing that she has the right to request a hearing if she disagrees with his decision.

Patty Parent did just that.  After receiving the request, Mr. Superintendent described the situation to Mr. Chairperson in detail.  He shared his view that Patty had changed her residence, but he asked Mr. Chairman to schedule a hearing anyway. 

When Mr. Chairperson sent out an email describing the situation, the other Board members were intrigued, and they all decided to attend the hearing.  Board member Mal Content caused quite a stir, however, at the beginning of the hearing.  After he was recognized, Mal dramatically noted that veteran Board member Bob Bombast is always complaining about people sneaking into Nutmeg to attend school.  He then moved that the Board ask Bob to recuse himself from hearing the case, stating, “Bob, given your complaints about students enrolling in Nutmeg, you are clearly biased.  We need to be fair here, and I don’t think you can be.” 

Bob was surprised and angered at Mal’s unexpected action.  He surmised that Mal’s motion was just a cheap shot in an election year, and Bob responded curtly that he was no more biased than Mal is and would not be recusing himself.

Given Bob’s history of complaints about ineligible students attending the Nutmeg Public Schools, should he recuse himself?  And is it possible that Patty Parent can establish that her children are homeless?

*         *         *

Taking the second question first, it depends on the specific facts.  Since 1987, federal law has provided special rights to children who are homeless.  The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act confers on homeless children a number of special rights.  A primary goal of the law is to maintain educational continuity for a homeless student – the school he or she attends may be one of the few constants in the child’s life.  Therefore, when a child becomes homeless, he or she is entitled to continue to attend the school he or she was attending when he or she became homeless (the “school of origin”) if feasible unless such attendance is against the wishes of the parent or guardian or otherwise not in the child’s “best interest.”  There is no specific time limit as to how long a student may be considered homeless.  Moreover, if a student finds permanent housing and is no longer homeless, he or she can continue to attend the school of origin for the remainder of that school year, again in the interest of continuity of education services.

Homeless students have other rights as well.  When a homeless child seeks to enroll in a school, school officials must admit the student immediately, without waiting for educational records or requiring proof of immunization.  The responsible school district (either the district in which the school of origin is located, or a new school district at which the student presents him- or herself) must also provide transportation to and from school back to the student’s temporary residence unless such transportation is against the child’s best interest.  The cost of such transportation, however, may be shared with the district in which the homeless child then temporarily resides.

Given these rights, the determination of whether a child is homeless is crucial.  The statute defines “homeless children and youths” as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” and it gives a number of examples, including “children who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” 

Here, the question will be whether Patty’s children lack a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence,” or whether they are not homeless but rather now living with their grandmother in the new school district.  In this regard, we note that the General Assembly amended the school accommodations statute this year to shift the burden in cases where homelessness is alleged to the school district to show that the student is not homeless.  Public Act 19-179.  That will be a challenge in some cases.

Two other matters here warrant mention.  First, Mal’s surprise attack on Bob is without merit.  To be sure, Patty Parent is entitled to due process as the Board decides whether her children may continue to attend the Nutmeg Public Schools, and a key element of due process is a decision by an impartial decision-maker.  However, Bob is free to express his opinions on general matters.  As long as Bob can consider this specific case impartially based on the information presented at the hearing (a decision that Bob himself must make), he will be able to hear the case.

By contrast, Mr. Superintendent should not have shared his perspective and the details of the case with the Board members.  Such ex parte communication is inappropriate because of the board member’s role as an impartial judge.  When board members must decide on the rights of students or teachers (e.g., in expulsion hearings or tenure hearings respectively), the superintendent must refrain from discussing the details with the board members in advance of the hearing, and he or she must make his or her case at the hearing itself.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions