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More on how ODE resolves residency disputes

By John Published: February 7, 2011

My Saturday story on the Williams-Bolar case discussed why her case wasn't resolved at the state level.  Here's some more information about that process than I had room for in the story.

A single sentence in the Ohio Revised Code language on school residency explains that the superintendent of public instruction resolves disagreements. Here's the relevant ORC section. You have to scroll down almost to the bottom to get to Section K.

Ohio Department of Education spokesman Patrick Gallaway told me that Section K is all there is from the legislature regarding this process. ODE crafted the actual procedure.

Either a parent or a school district can submit a complaint. ODE then gives both sides 30 days to submit information stating their case. The superintendent of public instruction then makes a decision, which can be appealed in court if either side wants to take it that far, and informs both parties via certified mail. Some cases are withdrawn by either the parent or the district before the superintendent has to make a ruling.

The state was presented seven cases last year, including two from the Bexley school district, an affluent closed-enrollment school system entirely surrounded by Columbus.

Bexley has had a few cases before the state superintendent since 2008 involving two families. Bexley was successful in establishing that one parent actually lived in Columbus.  In the other case, the district got a ruling that the parent lived in Columbus, but when the parent tried again the next year, the state sided with the parent's claim of living in Bexley.

Bexley superintendent Michael Johnson said that despite the mixed results, his district has made successful use of the Section K process.

''We go there on rare occasion,'' Johnson said. ''At least it's an appeals process that's external to ourself that you don't have to go to court over.'' He said that the process is fair to parents.

''A school district has to have a very very compelling case to win,'' Johnson said. ''In our case, we had video cameras and all kinds of evidence.''

 He said Bexley also has considered taking parents to civil court to recover its costs.

''It's kind of like theft -- they're evading taxes, there's a value to tuition and that kind of thing,'' Johnson said. ''One of the things we have considered is taking them to court and suing for the costs of enforcing the policy associated with their case as well as tuition, but we've not taken it that far.''

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