Parent Guide for School Enrollment in South Carolina
By Jennifer Rainville, Education Policy Attorney at South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
The following is a guide to frequently asked questions regarding school enrollment in South Carolina. If you have further questions regarding school enrollment, please contact Jennifer Rainville at [email protected].
How can I enroll my child in school if I don’t have all the documents that I need?
If you need a birth certificate, you can request one from the state vital statistics office where your child was born. If your child was born in South Carolina, you can request one from DHEC. To learn more, click here: https://scdhec.gov/vital-records/birth-certificates
If your child does not have a birth certificate or you are not able to obtain one, you will need proof of how old your child is to enroll them in school. The easiest way to prove a child’s age is through medical records. You will also have to provide proof of immunization, and typically a child’s birthdate is listed on that form.
You will also have to prove to the school district that you live in their district. This can be done with a lease agreement or a copy of a water or electric bill in your name. If you don’t have a fixed place to live, or you stay in a motel or shelter, you should ask to speak to the school district’s McKinney Vento Coordinator. They will be able to help you get your child enrolled without having to provide any further documentation.
What is a McKinney-Vento Coordinator?
All school districts are required to have a McKinney-Vento Coordinator. This person helps students whose families are experiencing homelessness. The term “homeless” applies to any student without a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Examples of living situations that may qualify a student for McKinney-Vento protections include:
- Living in a motel, hotel, or campground
- Living in a shelter
- Couch surfing or staying with different friends or family members each night
- Migrant children or unaccompanied youth
Students who get help under McKinney-Vento must get the same education services as their peers. Students and their families should get resources for healthcare, mental health, and housing. Students should receive transportation to their home school.
The school told me I need a custody order to enroll my student, now what?
If you are not the biological parent of the student, a school may ask you for a custody order from Family Court. You do not need a custody order if the student lives with you for of one of the reasons listed below.
- Their parent is deceased or seriously ill.
- Their parent is in jail or prison.
- Their parent has left the child with you and does not support or visit the child.
- Their parent has abused or neglected the child.
- Their parent has a physical or mental condition that makes it impossible to take care of the child.
- Their parent is homeless, or staying in a shelter.
- Their parent is actively deployed in the military.
If any of these reasons apply, you should complete a School Enrollment Affidavit. You can get one of these affidavits from the school district office or by following this link: https://www.scjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/school-affidavit.pdf
Once you complete this document and give it to the school, the school should immediately enroll the student. If they do not immediately enroll the student, you should contact an attorney.
After you give the School Enrollment Affidavit to the school, they cannot charge you tuition.
If you give the district false information you can be fined, charged fees, and face criminal charges.
What if I can’t afford the enrollment fees for my student?
You should talk to someone in administration during enrollment. If you receive SNAP benefits, your student should be eligible for free school lunch. All the enrollment fees for your student should be waived. Your school may try to get you to agree to a payment plan. If you cannot afford the fees and/or the payment plan, you should tell the school. Do not agree to something that you cannot afford.
If your student is eligible for reduced school lunch, then they should be eligible for a reduction in their school fees.
The school cannot refuse to enroll your student because you cannot pay the enrollment fee. If you are unable to afford school supplies, you should talk to your student’s teacher and school officials.
Can the school report our immigration status to ICE?
No. Federal law is very clear on this issue. Schools cannot:
- Refuse to enroll a student based on legal status or alleged legal status.
- Treat students different for residency determination purposes based on their status.
- Inquire about a student’s immigration status. This includes requiring documentation of a student’s legal status at any time.
- Make inquiries from a student or their parents that may expose their legal status.
Does the school have to provide me information in the language I speak?
Yes. This includes flyers and written information. The school must provide an interpreter or translator for school meetings. You should tell the school what ways you prefer to receive information. For example, if you cannot read you may request that information be given to you orally through an interpreter.
I am moving into a new school district, what do I need to do?
If you are moving into a new school district, you need to make sure that they have all your records. To do this you can ask the old district for your records. These records will either be sent directly to the new school district, or you will be given a copy. If the documents are sent to the new school district, contact the new district to make sure they got a copy. If you are given a copy, make sure you give it to the new district. You can give the copy to the admissions office. If your student has an IEP or a 504 plan, get a copy of the IEP/504 plan to the Special Education Coordinator at the new school.
SC Appleseed does not provide attorneys to represent individuals and cannot give legal advice to the public. We are an organization that focuses on policy work and trainings. If you need legal representation and are low income, please call South Carolina Legal Services intake at 1-888-346-5592 to inquire about pro bono legal assistance for your legal matter.
You may also wish to call the SC Bar Lawyer Referral Line at 803-799-7100 to hire an attorney.
For information specifically about housing and landlord tenant law in SC: https://www.scjustice.org/brochure-categories/housing/
If you are an indigent Veteran in need of legal help: https://www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/law/academics/experiential_learning/clinics/veterans_legal_clinic/index.php
For more information about what we do: https://www.scjustice.org/ For a list of resources that may help you: http://applepages.scjustice.org/
Our goal is to influence policymakers to ensure the law is fair, to educate the public and their advocates about the law, and to assist attorneys in bringing systemic litigation where the law is unfair.
We sincerely hope this information helps you in your search.