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Decision No. 12,991

Appeal of ANTHONY ST. HILAIRE from action of the Board of Education of the Uniondale Union Free School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 12,991

(August 24, 1993)

Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger, Reich & Scricca, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Lawrence W. Reich, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner is the parent of Danielle St. Hilaire and Richard Paulen. He challenges respondent's determination that he is not a resident of the Uniondale Union Free School District and that his children are therefore not entitled to attend public schools of the district. Petitioner asks that I find that he is a resident of the district and direct respondent to admit his children. The appeal must be dismissed.

The record before me indicates that petitioner had resided in an apartment within respondent district and his children attended the schools of the district. On some unspecified date, petitioner's apartment was destroyed by fire. On or about March 10, 1993, petitioner informed respondent's attendance officer that his family was currently residing in a neighboring school district and that his wife would register the children in that district.

Petitioner's wife subsequently informed the attendance officer that petitioner was mistaken when he stated that he was living in a neighboring district. She further stated that the family was living with relatives at 693 Jerusalem Avenue within the Uniondale district. On March 22, 1993, the attendance officer visited the premises at 693 Jerusalem Avenue and interviewed an adult member of the family owning that residence. That adult member informed the attendance officer that the St. Hilaire family had moved out about a month ago and that "they were not coming back."

Respondent notified petitioner that as a result of its investigation, it had determined that petitioner's children were not residents of the Uniondale district and not entitled to attend its schools. Petitioner met with respondent's superintendent and attendance officer to review that decision. As a result of that meeting, respondent agreed to allow the children to attend the district schools during the pendency of this appeal.

The right of admission to the schools of a public school district on a tuition-free basis is accorded only to residents of the district, pursuant to Education Law '3202(1), which reads in part:

A person over five and under twenty-one years of age who has not received a high school diploma is entitled to attend the public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition.

As was noted in Matter of Buglione, 14 Ed Dept Rep 220, the purpose of this statute is to limit the obligation of school districts to provide tuition-free education, with certain exceptions which are not relevant in this instance, to students whose parents or legal guardians reside within the district.

Despite petitioner's claim that he and his family reside in the Uniondale school district, the record indicates that he is no longer a resident of that district. Petitioner admitted that he no longer resides in the district, and his subsequent claim that he resides with a relative within the district was contradicted by an adult family member of that household.