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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: March 24, 2015 02:27 PM
From: Representative James R. Roebuck, Jr. and Rep. Dan Truitt, Rep. Ed Gainey
To: All House members
In the very near future, both Representative Dan Truitt and I will be introducing a measure that proposes to amend the Act of March 10, 1949, (P.L., No. 14), known as the Public School Code, to further define and provide for school residency requirements in Pennsylvania.

Spurred by events that occurred in Montgomery County in 2012 involving parents being charged with a “felony” (theft of services) offense for sending their child to a school outside of the school district of their residence, both Representative Truitt and I were compelled to address the deficiency of Pennsylvania statute concerning this subject.

As many of you may be aware, Article XIII, Section 1302 of the Public School Code actually attempts to address the aforementioned subject. However, upon further inspection it was discovered that this statute technically only addresses non-guardians and non-parents purporting to support children gratis in their homes and that have signed a sworn statement with a school district attesting to that fact along with a penalty for violations of this section. As such, the provisions of this section do not address when parents and guardians decide to enroll their child in a school district for which the child is not eligible and send their children to schools within them or provide a penalty for such acts. It is the ambiguity of this statute that enabled the district attorney of that county to pursue a felony conviction.

To be clear, while the act of a parent misrepresenting the place of their residence in an effort to send their child to an outlying school district is patently wrong, irrespective of the parent’s intentions, the fact of the matter remains that such an act certainly does not warrant the imposition of a felony charge. Currently, with respect to non-guardians and non-parents who provide false information in sworn statements, Article XIII, Section 1302 of the Public School Code provides that such an act constitutes the commission of a summary offense and provides for the following penalties:
  • Repayment of restitution and related court costs to the affected school district;
  • A fine (Up to $300); and/or
  • Community Service (Up to 240 hours)
In the spirit of parity and fairness, this measure proposes to provide a penalty for parents and guardians who live wholly outside the boundaries of a school district and send their children to schools within them, which would be the identical to the penalty under current law for non-guardians and non-parents, a summary offense. Secondly, in an effort to provide a reasonable deterrent for would be “boundary hoppers,” this measure would provide for the following additional penalties:
  • The commission of a misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense;
  • Repayment of restitution and related court costs to the affected school district;
  • A fine (Up to $1,000); and/or
  • Community Service (Up to 500 hours).

    Lastly, this measure proposes to further provide for due process concerning allegations of “boundary hopping.” Specifically, prior to a child being removed from a school and a parent being subsequently charged as a result of an act of “boundary hopping,” the following must occur:
  • The school district’s board of directors, authorized board committee or designated hearing examiner must formally determine that an act of boundary hopping has occurred; and
  • The affected school district’s board of directors must determine that it does not wish to grant an exception to permit the child to attend the school pursuant to section 1316 of the Public School Code (relating to permitting the attendance of non-resident pupils).

    It should be noted that the above-mentioned parents who were charged with the felony offense, after more than a year in court, had the theft of services charge reduced to a summary offense, the penalty of which is already prescribed for in Section 1302 of the Public School Code. Nevertheless, those parents were subjected to mug shots, booking, fingerprinting and all of the other protocols exclusively set aside for your common criminal. Therefore, the objective of this measure has the following purpose:
  • Reserve our commonwealth’s prisons and the damaging stigma of “felon” for Pennsylvania’s more serious and wanton offenders; and
  • Protect the scarce and valuable resources of Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts in a manner that is both evenhanded and predicated upon the concept of restorative justice.
    Representatives Truitt, Gainey, and I would like to strongly encourage members from both sides of the aisle to please join us in advancing this practical and commonsense initiative.

    For more information concerning this legislation, you are asked to please contact Brandon J. Flood at (717)772-6955 or bflood@pahouse.net.

Introduced as HB952