Unmarried parents and enrollment issues
Under Ohio Revised Code Section (RC) 3109.042, an unmarried woman that gives birth to a child is the sole legal custodian and residential parent of that child unless and until a court issues an order that designates another individual, including the father, as the legal custodian and residential parent. This is true even if the unmarried father’s name appears on the birth certificate.
This means that an unmarried father will not have certain legal rights including the right to sign permission slips, emergency medical authorization forms, nor would he have rights to visitation or custody without court documentation. If there are any disputes or issues between unmarried parents, the mother of the child will have authority over the decisions being made.
Whether the child can enroll in the unmarried father’s district of residence is another matter. Under RC 3313.64, “a child shall be admitted to the schools of the school district in which the child’s parent resides.” The statute makes custody of the child irrelevant unless and until there’s a legal separation, divorce, dissolution or annulment. Those legal proceedings haven’t occurred in the case of unmarried parents. As a result, the language seems to allow a legally recognized, biological father with no legal custody of a child the ability to enroll the child in the school district where he resides without the payment of tuition.
However, as mentioned above, even if he’s permitted to enroll the child in his district of residence, the unmarried father would need to get custody for other rights, including the right to sign permission slips, emergency medical authorization forms, etc. Until the unmarried father receives legal custody of the child, those rights continue to belong to the unmarried mother.
[Note: Under FERPA, school districts must also provide access to a student’s educational record to both parents, custodial and non-custodial, unless there is a legally binding document that specifically removes that parent’s FERPA rights.]
LAF files amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court case
OSBA's legal assistance fund (LAF) recently joined the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to file an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Schott v. Wenk (formerly Wenk v. O'Reilly). The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear and overturn a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee) that makes mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse vulnerable to claims of retaliation brought by an alleged abuser. OSBA and its joint amici argue that mandatory reporting requirements exist to protect the safety of children by encouraging reports of suspected abuse and that to deny a teacher's qualified immunity when he or she makes such a report could chill the decision to report the suspected abuse. A copy of the amicus brief and NSBA's press release are available online.
If you have any further questions, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services.