Proving Residency of a School District In Order to Get Educational Benefits In Pennsylvania

In Cumberland Valley School District, 560 Pa. 366, 744 A.2d 1272 (2000), the Supreme Court was faced with deciding whether children "resided" in Cumberland Valley School District within the meaning of Section 1302 of the School Code. In that case, the Thane family moved from their home in Chambersburg, Franklin County, to a townhouse in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, to live closer to Harrisburg Academy where their son could attend a private school. Their other son, who required special education, also moved and was enrolled in the proper school in Cumberland County. Mrs. Thane spent weekdays and alternate weekends at the townhouse while other weekends and vacations were spent in Chambersburg. She received mail and phone calls from the school district at the townhouse and paid personal taxes to Hampden Township. She changed her voter registration and driver's license address to reflect her Hampden Township address. When her son, requiring special education, required enrollment at a private school for children with learning disabilities due to deterioration in his mental health, Mrs. Thane requested Cumberland Valley School District to pay for that education which was located in Montgomery County. Cumberland Valley School District turned her down stating that she was not a resident of that district and not entitled to educational benefits. On appeal, the Board of School Directors affirmed, finding that her townhouse in Cumberland County was only a temporary residence for their convenience. Mrs. Thane filed an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas which reversed because the Board misinterpreted the term "resides." This Court affirmed in relevant part. Making its way to the Supreme Court, the Court concluded that the Thanes were residents by relying on what the General Assembly meant when it used the word "resides." The Court first stated that the word "resides" "refers to a place where the custodial parent maintains a residence, and contrary to the board's view, it need not be a primary residence or domicile. The legislature, in enacting section 1302, is presumed to have known the common meanings of the terms 'residence' and 'domicile.' In choosing the term 'resides' rather than terms such as 'has a primary residence' or 'is domiciled' in the school district, the legislature did not require that parents do anything more than reside in a school district in order to enroll their children in the local public schools." Id. at 370, 744 A.2d at 1274. The Court went on to explain that a domicile was a place where people had their fixed and permanent home where they intended to return after their absence while a residence, in contrast, was a "factual place of abode" evidenced by a "person's physical presence in a particular place." Id. at 371, 744 A.2d at 1275.