School enrollment laws tighten

By Bill Nolte | Sep 15, 2012

The North Carolina General Assembly passed what it called the Safe Students Act. This legislation changed General Statue 115C-364 through the passage of House Bill 744. This bill tightened the requirements for enrollment in public schools. At first glance, the changes don’t seem to relate to student safety. However, the legislative changes will make it more difficult for “missing” children to be enrolled without the “real” parents knowing. Believe it or not, people do this.

The revised law states, the principal "shall" require the parent of any child presented for admission to furnish a certified copy of the child's birth certificate. The old law said “may” require. This is one of those situations in which one or two words make a big difference.

One key word in the legislation is “furnish” (a certified copy of the birth certificate). When you “furnish” something, you put it in there to stay. For example, when you furnish a room, you put furniture in the room to stay. Under the old law, schools sometimes looked at a certified copy of the birth certificate, made a copy of it and returned the certified copy to the parents. Other school districts actually accepted photo copies rather than certified copies. These previous practices were apparently not good enough for lawmakers, so they changed the law.

The new legislative changes are usually not a problem when kindergarten students enroll. Most kindergarten students pre-register and kindergarten parents usually attend orientation sessions prior to school starting. This gives schools time to notify parents about the new law. It also gives parents time to obtain a certified copy of the birth certificate before school starts. Since kindergarten students are young, many families have extra copies of a certified birth certificate at home.

However, changes in the enrollment law have made a big difference for some students who change schools during the year or who change schools frequently. The new law can delay enrollment while parents obtain a certified copy of the birth certificate. In some instances schools receive the brunt of parent frustrations. This can be frustrating for the parents and schools.

When you add this change to existing requirements like, verification of guardianship, verification of residency, verification of any suspensions and verification that the student has not been convicted of a felony, enrollment may take a little while. This is especially true for students who move in the middle of the year, students who change schools frequently and students who have not previously attended school in the district.

Why take the time to put all of this in a column? Well, the law is now written in a way that may limit immediate enrollment for some students. Some legal requirements may cause enrollment to be denied in a small number of cases. Please bear with us if enrollment is not immediate and if there are a lot of questions to be answered. We didn’t create these laws, but we are trying to follow them.

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