Legal Aid helps students enroll in Cecil Co. schools

The problem: For two years, the Northeastern Maryland office (in Bel Air, covering Harford and Cecil counties) has had clients calling because the frontline personnel at Cecil County public schools continue to tell grandmothers (or other relatives) that they must have custody of the child in order to enroll the child in the grandmother’s school district.

The solution: Assistant Director of Advocacy Jessica Rae did extensive research on the kinship care requirement for each county and distributed it to 13 Legal Aid offices around the state. “Armed with that information and the necessary one-page form, I have advised people that the school is wrong,” said Northeastern Maryland office chief attorney Jeanette Cole. “When I have given them the correct information and sent them back to the school, they have always successfully enrolled the child.”

Yet in spite of this the procedure was continuing in some of the schools. In an effort to try to bring this to the attention of the Cecil County Board of Education, Rae drafted a very complete letter (with a footnote, no less) explaining the kinship care requirements.

“It was a great letter,” Cole said. “I sent it to the acting superintendent of schools and he forwarded it to the appropriate associate superintendent who immediately called me. We had a great discussion.” The associate superintendent thanked Cole for the letter and emphasized that they try to be sure that the front desk employees are not giving incorrect information, but it is hard to check on each one. She said that the letter had given her an opportunity to remind supervisors of the kinship care requirements. She also asked that if the Northeastern Maryland office finds any other people who have been told that they have to get custody, to identify the school and call the her immediately–and it will be corrected.

“She was very appreciative of our input and emphasized that I should call her at any time with questions or concerns for students of Cecil County Public Schools,” Cole said. “Thanks to the letter Jess drafted, I believe we helped others from going through the hassle of filing for custody when a one-page notarized statement does the trick!”

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