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Decision No. 15,801

Appeal of PAULA CRAWFORD, on behalf of her grandson QUINTIN L. CROSBY, from action of the Board of Education of the Gates-Chili Central School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 15,801

(August 1, 2008)

Empire Justice Center, attorneys for petitioner, Jane Gabriel, Esq., of counsel

Goldstein, Ackerhalt & Pletcher, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Arthur H. Ackerhalt, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Gates-Chili Central School District (“respondent”) that her grandson, Quintin, is not a district resident.  The appeal must be sustained.

In July 2005, Quintin’s father enrolled him in respondent’s school district.  By letter dated February 5, 2007, respondent’s director of pupil services (“director”) informed Quintin’s father that Quintin was not a resident entitled to attend respondent’s schools tuition-free.  On August 31, 2007, I determined in Appeal of Crawford (47 Ed Dept Rep 148, Decision No. 15,653) that petitioner failed to rebut the presumption that Quintin’s residence was with his father outside respondent’s district.

On February 14, 2007, during the pendency of the initial appeal, Quintin’s father applied to the Monroe County Family Court to have petitioner appointed as Quintin’s guardian.  This application was granted on April 10, 2007.[1]  Petitioner submitted a re-registration form on October 4, 2007 to the district, requesting that Quintin be allowed to attend school as a resident.  By letter dated October 11, 2007, the director denied petitioner’s registration.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted on November 11, 2007.

Petitioner contends that she is Quintin’s legal guardian and that he resides with her in respondent’s district.

Respondent maintains that Quintin resides with his father outside the district and that Quintin’s father filed a petition in family court solely to have petitioner appointed guardian so that Quintin could attend respondent’s schools tuition-free.

Custody may be legally transferred from a parent or guardian to a third party by obtaining a court order or letters of guardianship from a court of competent jurisdiction.  Where a court of competent jurisdiction has legally transferred custody of a child, and the child actually lives with the court-appointed guardian, the Commissioner will accept the court’s order as determinative for residency purposes, and will not look behind the court’s decision to determine whether the custody transfer is bonafide (Appeal of D.R., 45 Ed Dept Rep 550, Decision No. 15,412).  This approach recognizes that a change in custody is a serious, life-changing event for all involved based on factors not always apparent in the context of a residency appeal to the Commissioner.  Any objection to the legitimacy of the transfer should be made before the court in a custody proceeding, not in a subsequent educational appeal to the Commissioner of Education (Appeal of D.R., 45 Ed Dept Rep 550, Decision No. 15,412).

A valid court order was issued transferring custody of the student to petitioner, who resides within the district.  Respondent’s arguments that Quintin lives outside the district is based on evidence collected during the 2006-2007 school year, prior to his request for readmission.  Therefore, I conclude that Quintin is a district resident entitled to attend respondent’s schools tuition free. 

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent allow Quintin L. Crosby to attend school in the Gates-Chili Central School District without the payment of tuition.

END OF FILE


[1]My Office of Counsel had requested information regarding the disposition of the guardianship application from petitioner at the time of the original 2007 application.  Such information was provided to my office as part of petitioner’s present appeal.