When real estate law collides with school law; students with parents in two different school districts
Though school district boundaries do not change often, when they do change it is often dramatic, particularly in areas like Central Texas where many public school districts are experiencing explosive growth.
Buyers should always contact school administrators and confirm school boundaries in writing before purchasing the house. If you will not occupy the house in the near future you need to clarify this in your inquiry to the administrators that their questions concern the state of the zones at some particular future date. While school attendance zones don’t change overnight, no guarantee exists that the zone will remain the same from one academic year to the next. Texas law provides no assurance that any student retains any rights beyond those afforded by the following law, a statute which, unfortunately, is often badly misunderstood both by families and the educators responsible for enrolling students.
Texas Education Code Section 25.001 makes it clear that if a parent, a grandparent providing substantial care, or other person with custody of a student resides within the boundaries of a Texas public school district, that student has a right to attend the school which said district’s attendance zone policies allow him or her to attend. This is true even if the student does not reside in the district.
Remember, if a parent expects a fight over the custody of their child, that fight may well determine where the student attends school; determination of custodial rights creates another set of choices and challenges related to school attendance.
Keep in mind, residency is an issue of fact; not wishful thinking! Do not take the example of one of our creative parents who bought a small lot of land, hooked up a hunting trailer, and claimed residency. If the parent truly resided in the hunting trailer, great, but the attendance officers of the district will look into this closely and if the district discovers that no person actually lives there, the school district may demand the removal of the student and could also demand tuition and related fees. This is NOT a good situation to find yourself or your family in, particularly when the facts are recounted to the family law judge with continuing jurisdiction over the matter.