Dougherty Schools to require proof of residency - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty Schools to require proof of residency

July 29, 2005

Albany- For years, lots of parents have fudged on residency requirements and used addresses of friends and relatives to send their children to more desirable schools. Now, the school system says, no more. If you plan to use someone else's address for your child's school, you'll first have to sign over your parental rights to the person who lives at that address.

When students return to school next week, every parent in the Dougherty County Schools will need to fill out a certificate of residence form, basically swearing that the child lives in the district. If they're caught lying the penalties include jail time.

Classrooms overflowing with students have forced the Dougherty County School board to take drastic measures.

"It threatens not only the size of the school and the health of that school and the health of the school that they're supposed to be in," said Tommy Coleman, Dougherty School Board Attorney.

Many parents were abusing a temporary guardianship provision that allowed students to use other people's addresses to get into the schools they wanted. But now, parents must either prove a child lives in the school district or go to court and give up parental rights to whoever lives at the address the child is using.

"It's an absolutely drastic step and it's one that attorney's are going to have to wrestle with as to whether or not they think it's actually a viable cause of action to bring before the courts," said Judge Loring Gray Jr., Dougherty Superior Court.

So far, no parent has filed with the courts, but the law library has been busy and the Superior court phones are flooded with calls. The new rules comes with a strong penalty if parents decide to lie.

"The child will be transferred to the appropriate school and when they're transferred they will be ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities for one calendar year," said Coleman.

Parents could face jail time up to five years and fines over a thousand dollars if they lie on these forms. In any situation there are always some exceptions, if the child's in the custody of DFACS, or the department of juvenile justice, or maybe the child's an orphan or if they're homeless.

Those cases will be looked at on an individual basis. Transferring permanent custody takes a minimum of 60 days and involves a court hearing and attorney fees along with filing fees which are close to $100.

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