School Districts Must Pursue Specific Measures When Transitioning Students of Active Duty Military

California is home to over 150,000 active duty military personnel in more than 30 military bases from all branches of the armed forces. In some regions, such as San Diego, entire neighborhoods and local school boundary areas consist primarily of military families. Research indicates military families transfer duty stations, on average, once every three years, and children of military families often attend school in multiple districts before finishing high school.

California, like all states, abides by the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  (Educ. Code § 49700.5 et seq.) The Compact applies to children of active duty members of the uniformed services.  (Educ. Code § 49701(III)(A).)

The Compact was designed to remove barriers to educational success imposed on children of military families due to the frequent moves and deployment of their parents. It imposes specific requirements on school districts when facilitating the transfer of educational records, placement in educational courses, inclusion in extracurricular activities, and enforcement of graduation requirements for these children.

Educational Records

Active duty military personnel often must transfer to another military base with short notice.  To ease this transition, the Compact does not require parents to provide official education records to the receiving school district in order to enroll their children.  (Educ. Code § 49701(IV)(A).) Instead, active duty parents can conditionally enroll their children by submitting unofficial education records such as unofficial transcript print-outs. (Educ. Code § 49701(IV)(A).) The receiving school district then requests the official records from the sending district. (Educ. Code § 49701(IV)(B).) The Compact also provides a 30-day window period after conditional enrollment for military-family children to provide proof of immunization. (Educ. Code § 49701(IV)(C).)

Placement in Educational Courses

The Compact requires school districts to honor placement of the student in educational courses based on the student’s enrollment in the sending school and/or educational assessments conducted at the sending school if such courses are offered and space is available. (Educ. Code § 49701(V)(A).) Course placement includes, but is not limited to, Honors, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, vocational, technical and career pathways courses.  However, a receiving school district can perform subsequent evaluations to ensure appropriate placement and continued enrollment of the student in the course. (Educ. Code § 49701(V)(A).)

Inclusion in Extracurricular Activities

The Compact requires school districts to “facilitate the opportunity for transitioning military children's inclusion in extracurricular activities, regardless of application deadlines, to the extent they are otherwise qualified and space is available, as determined by the school district.”  (Educ. Code § 49701(VI)(B).) If a transitioning military-family student is interested in joining an athletic program, the school district must evaluate the child’s athletic ability and determine whether space is available. These same standards would apply for programs such as theatrical production, band, and other clubs or activities that involve tryouts.

Enforcing Graduation Requirements

School districts must use best efforts to waive specific courses required for graduation if similar coursework has been satisfactorily completed in another district. (Educ. Code § 49701(VII)(A).)  Districts need not waive all course requirements, but must have a reasonable justification for denying a waiver for graduation purposes. When denying a graduation requirement waiver, the district must use best efforts to provide alternative means of acquiring required coursework so the student can graduate on time. (Educ. Code § 49701(VII)(A).) Transitioning military-family students are required to pass the California High School Exit Exam. (Educ. Code § 49701(VII)(B).)

If a military-family student transfers at the beginning of or during senior year, and is ineligible to graduate from the receiving district after all alternatives have been considered, the sending and receiving districts must make best efforts to ensure the student receives a diploma from the sending school district, if the student meets the graduation requirements of that district. (Educ. Code § 49701(VII)(C).)

When facilitating the transition of students from active duty military families, school districts are advised to consult with legal counsel to ensure full legal compliance with the Compact.

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