New Legislation Restricts Residency Investigations, Expands Residency to Live-in Employment

In August 2015, the governor signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1101, which as of January 1, 2016 will prohibit school districts from undertaking investigations regarding a student’s residency unless the governing board has adopted a policy establishing protocols and limitations on that investigation process. AB 1101 adds section 48204.2 to the Education Code and requires the policy to: identify circumstances in which an investigation may be initiated; describe the investigatory methods that may be used, including whether a private investigator may be retained; prohibit the covert taking of photographs or videos of the location or persons investigated; and require officials involved in the investigation to identify themselves during the process.

Education Code section 48204.2, at subdivision (b)(5), also requires the governing board to establish a process for a student to appeal a school official’s decision regarding the student’s residency.  In most circumstances, the initial decision is made by an administrator, and the appeal process may afford the student an opportunity to present additional documentation or explanation to a higher-level official or the governing board itself.

Additional changes in pupil residence standards will also take effect on January 1, 2016 under Senate Bill (SB) 200, which the governor signed along with AB 1101. SB 200 amends Education Code section 48204, subdivision (a)(7) to provide that residency requirements for school attendance are met when the student’s parent or legal guardian resides outside of the boundaries of a school district “but is employed and lives with the pupil at the place of his or her employment within the boundaries of the school district for a minimum of three days during the school week.” Thus, SB 200 will allow students whose parents or guardians work in a live-in employment situation to stay with their parent/guardian at the place of employment and attend school in the district where the employment is located. News reports indicate SB 200 was enacted to address residency issues involving parents or guardians working in live-in situations such as nannies, caregivers, or other domestic workers. In some well publicized situations, residency investigations determined students did not reside in the school districts where their parents worked in live-in employment, and it was claimed that the families did not have an opportunity to provide additional information in support of residency before disenrollment.

To maintain the ability to investigate residency after January 1, 2016, districts should update their residency policies to comply with AB 1101. Policies should reflect recognition of parents’ live-in employment as meeting residency requirements under SB 200 by January 1, 2016 as well.

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