Back to School

Posted on August 11, 2017


Surely you have noticed all of the excitement in the air as families prepare their children to go back to school.  The beginning of the school year should be an exciting new adventure for all school aged children. Unfortunately, many families struggle with transitioning from the summer to the school year.   We have some helpful advice to make the transition smoother.

School Enrollment

  • If you have a child that lives with you, you do not need to have legal custody to enroll him in school. The child can go to school according to your address, if he lives with you because of one of these reasons:
    • (a) the child’s parent or legal guardian
      • died,
      • is seriously ill,
      • is incarcerated,
      • has a physical or mental condition and can’t adequately care for or supervise the child,
      • gave up complete control and does not provide guidance or financial support for the child, OR
      • was called to active duty or deployed for more than 60 sixty days and more than 70 miles away;
    • (b) the child was being abused or neglected;
    • (c) the child was abandoned; OR
    • (d) the child is homeless.

To enroll the child, fill out a form called School Affidavit.  Ask the school where you can get one.  You cannot lie or provide false information on a School Affidavit.  It is a crime to provide the school with false information to get a child enrolled.

Homeless Students

  • A child is considered homeless if he does not have a fixed, regular or adequate night-time residence. Children living in shelters, hotels, cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, or shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship are homeless.  If the child you are assisting is homeless, let the school know and ask to speak to a homeless liaison.  Sometimes, it is in the child’s best interest to continue attending the school he was in before he became homeless, even if he no longer lives in that school zone.  Let the school know, and request transportation to and from school.

School Uniforms

  • Most public schools that require school uniforms have some form of assistance for families that cannot afford to purchase them. If you cannot afford the school uniform, let the school know.  If your child receives free meals at school, or if your household income is less than 130% of the federal poverty guidelines and the school provides free meals to all students, the child is entitled to the uniform at no charge.  If your child receives reduced priced school meals, or if your household income is less than 185% of the federal poverty guidelines and the school provides free meals to all students, you may get some assistance.  If the school has had a school uniform policy for a while, they may have some clothing that your child can use.

School Fees

  • If your child qualifies for free meals, ask the school to waive enrollment fees. You can ask for help with getting a graphing calculator and other items required for academic courses. You may be able to get financial assistance with field trips that are approved as an extension of the classroom experience.  Normally, field trips are extensions of the classroom experience if they are during regular school days and related to specific part of the curriculum. The school does not have to provide assistance with extracurricular expenses, like sporting fees, admission to school parties, cheerleading uniforms, etc.

Special Needs

  • If the child has special needs and is transitioning to a new school, let the school know of any allergies, special needs, accommodations plan, or individualized education plan (IEP). If the child has an extremely hard time with transitions, you may be able to get a tour of the school or meet the teacher without other parents or students there.  If you need to request a 504 Plan or an IEP meeting, you can do it before school starts, or wait until the teachers are familiar with the child’s special needs.  If you do it before school starts, you will need to explain the child’s impairments and the necessary accommodations needed.  If the child needs medicine during the school day, let the nurse know. Ask for a health passport if your child is mature enough to administer medicine on his own.

Most of the school issues should be resolved if you follow the advice above.  If the school is not cooperating or you are having other problems, you can apply for help at South Carolina Legal Services by calling 888-799-9668 or online at

Kimaka Nichols-Graham
Staff Attorney
Education Unit Head / Managing Attorney


Posted in: Uncategorized