School Enrollment: Rights and Responsibilities

Who: All children who turn five years old by September 30th up through age 18 are required by Virginia law to be enrolled in public school, private school, or state-approved home school.1 Generally, students may enroll in school up until the age of 20 or until they graduate2.  Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) may attend school until age 21.3 Students ages 12 and up who enroll in a Virginia public school for the first time and are identified as English Language Learners may stay in school until age 22.4

Where: Unless a child has a variance (meaning the school division approved a school different than the child’s zoned school), is homeless, is in kinship care (living with a relative who is not a parent) or in a foster care setting, the child should attend the school division where the child’s parent or guardian resides.  Residency must be “bona fide,” meaning that it must not be solely for the purpose of attending school.5

Families and living situations get complicated – if you have a question about where your child should attend school, please contact us here.

How: Call your local school or check your school division’s website for the specifics of how to enroll, but Virginia law requires certain paperwork prior to enrollment: A certified copy of a child’s birth certificate (or an affidavit that sets forth the child’s age and explains the reason that a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate cannot be obtained – if used, police will be notified); proof of residency such as utility bills and a lease (unless special circumstances); and a school physical examination form including immunization record.6

When: Parents are expected to register students for school as soon as possible, according to the local schedule for the start of the year. 

Common Legal Issues and Frequently Asked Questions:

1: VA.CODE ANN. § 22.1-254(A).

2: VA. CODE ANN. § 22.1-1. 

3: 8 VAC 20-81-30(B)

4: VA.CODE ANN § 22.1-5(7)(D)

5: VA.CODE ANN. § 22.1-3(A).

6: VA.CODE ANN. §§ 22.1-3.1; 22.1-270; 22.1-271.2. 

7: 1987-88Va. Op. Atty. Gen.374(1987).

8: VA.CODE ANN. § 22-1-255. 

9: VA.CONST. art. VIII, § 1; see alsoPlyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).

10: 8VAC20-81-150

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