July 1, 2016

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Steven R. Staples, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Student Enrollment Requirements – School Year 2016-2017

As you prepare for the 2016-2017 school year, I want to take the opportunity to remind you about certain enrollment requirements.  Please distribute this information as widely as possible throughout your school division to ensure that appropriate school division employees are aware of these requirements.   

Birth Certificate

Except as provided in § 22.1-3.1  of the Code of Virginia, no student shall be admitted for the first time to any public school in any school division in Virginia unless the person enrolling the student shall present, upon admission, a certified copy of the student's birth record.  A photocopy of the child's birth certificate will not meet this requirement.  If a certified copy of the child's birth certificate cannot be obtained, the person enrolling the child must submit a sworn statement setting forth the child's age and explaining the inability to present a certified copy.

A certified copy of a birth record for a person born in Virginia may be obtained from the Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics at the Virginia Department of Health.  Click here  for information about that process.


Section 22.1-3 of the Code of Virginia provides that the public schools in each school division shall be free to each person of school age who resides within the school division.  A student is deemed a resident of a school division and entitled to enroll in school if he or she is living with a natural parent or a parent by legal adoption. The student is also deemed to reside within the school division when the student is living with an adult relative providing temporary kinship care as defined in § 63.2-100 of the Code.  The school division may require one or both of the parents and the adult relative providing kinship care to submit certain documents and verifications in order to enroll the child.  In addition, a school division may also require the parent or adult relative to obtain written verification from the department of social services where the parent or parents live, or from both that department and the department of social services where the kinship care provider lives, to show that the kinship care arrangement serves a legitimate purpose that is in the best interest of the person and is not solely for purposes of school enrollment.
Please see § 22.1-3 for more information about kinship care and the other instances under which a student is deemed a resident and entitled to enrollment.

Questions have arisen regarding a local school board's authority to inquire into a prospective student's citizenship or visa status and to bar enrollment to those students who reside within the school division but do not hold a student visa.  Pursuant to a decision by the United States Supreme Court, Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), school divisions are required to accept students who meet residency requirements under § 22.1-3 of the Code and may not deny a free public education to undocumented school-age children who reside within their jurisdiction because they do not hold valid United States citizenship or a student visa.

On May 8, 2014, the United States Department of Education (USED), in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), issued an advisory letter reminding educational agencies that, under federal law, state and local educational agencies are required to provide all children with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary levels.  In the advisory letter, USED and USDOJ indicated that they had become aware of student enrollment practices that may discourage or lead to the exclusion of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ citizenship or immigration status.  The letter of May 8, 2014 replaced the advisory letter previously issued May 6, 2011 and was written in response to inquiries the Department received about the May 6, 2011 letter.  The guidance in the May 8, 2014 letter is applicable to the 2016-2017 school year. 

Here are highlights from the May 8, 2014 advisory letter:


To ensure compliance, please read the advisory letter of May 8, 2014 very carefully.

Students with a Parent or Parents in the Military

Virginia is a member of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (Compact).  The purpose of the Compact is to streamline the transfer of children of military families into Virginia public schools.  Specifically, the Compact addresses the following: (1) records and enrollment (Article IV), which contains provisions regarding record transfers, immunizations, and school entrance age; (2) placement and attendance (Article V), which contains provisions regarding course and program placement and special education services; (3) eligibility (Article VI), which addresses documentation requirements for enrollment; and (4) graduation (Article VII), which addresses how receiving school divisions will facilitate the on-time graduation of military transfer students.  (§ 22.1-360 Code of Virginia)

A student is deemed a resident of a school division and cannot be denied admission or charged tuition if the student is living with a noncustodial parent or other person standing in loco parentis, not solely for school purposes, pursuant to a Special Power of Attorney executed under Title 10, United States Code, § 1044b, by the custodial parent.  (§ 22.1-3)  Such students may continue to attend school in the school division they attended while residing with the custodial parent without paying tuition or they may attend school in the school division in which the noncustodial parent or other person standing in loco parentis resides without paying tuition. (§ 22.1-360)

For additional information about the enrollment of students of military families, please see http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/student_family/military/index.shtml and http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/student_family/military/guidance_training/index.shtml.

Homeless Students

School divisions must immediately enroll homeless students and coordinate the provision of services to these students with relevant local social services agencies and other agencies and programs providing services to such students, and with other school divisions.  In addition, division superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.  School divisions must immediately refer the student to the school division liaison required to assist the student in obtaining the necessary physical examination or proof of completion of immunizations.  For more information regarding the enrollment of homeless students, please see § 22.1-3 and visit http://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/.

Students in Foster Care

A student who has been placed in foster care by a local social services agency (§ 63.2-100) shall be immediately enrolled even if the placing social services agency is unable to produce the documents required for enrollment.  In such cases, the person enrolling the student must provide a written statement that, to the best of his knowledge, sets forth the student's age and compliance with the requirements of § 22.1-3.2 of the Code and indicates that the student is in good health and free from communicable or contagious disease.  See § 22.1-3.4 of the Code for additional information regarding the enrollment of students in foster care.  For additional information about requirements of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, see “Student and Family Services” on the Virginia Department of Education’s Web site.

Transfer Students

Section 22.1-253.13:4 of the Code of Virginia (Standard 4 of the Standards of Quality) requires local school boards to make provisions for students who transfer between public secondary schools and from nonpublic schools or from home instruction as outlined in the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (SOA).  The SOA provides:

All school divisions should have policies regarding the transfer process.

Social Security Numbers

During the 2015 General Assembly Session, two bills which eliminated the requirement for disclosure of students’ social security numbers were passed.  HB 1307and SB 1293 provide that neither the Department of Education nor any local school board shall require any student enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school or receiving home instruction pursuant to § 22.1-254.1 of the Code, or his parent, to provide the student’s federal social security number.  Both HB 1307 and SB 1293 were effective August 1, 2015. 

Expulsion Statement

When a student is registered, the parent must provide a sworn statement or affirmation indicating whether the child has been expelled from attending a private school or another public school in Virginia or a school in another state for an offense involving weapons, alcohol or drugs, or for willful infliction of injury to another person.  In addition, the parent must provide a sworn statement or affirmation indicating whether the student has been found guilty of or adjudicated delinquent for any offense listed in subsection G of § 16.1-260 of the Code or any substantially similar offense under the laws of any state, the District of Columbia, or the United States or its territories.  (§ 22.1-3.2 of the Code of Virginia)

Comprehensive Pre-school Physical Examination

Section 22.1-270 of the Code precludes the admission of students for the first time to any public kindergarten or elementary school in a school division unless the student furnishes, prior to admission, either a report of a comprehensive physical examination from a qualified licensed physician, or a licensed nurse practitioner or licensed physician assistant acting under the supervision of a licensed physician.  The examination must be of the scope prescribed by the State Health Commissioner and must have been performed within 12 months before the date the student first enters the public school.  In the alternative, students may provide records showing that they furnished such a report upon admission to another school or school division and provide the information that was contained in that report. Section 22.1-270 of the Code also includes special provisions for homeless students, as well as an exemption from the physical examination for students whose parents object for religious reasons.  Such physical examination is not required of any child whose parent objects on religious grounds and who shows no visual evidence of sickness, provided that such parent shall state in writing that, to the best of his knowledge, the child is in good health and free from any communicable or contagious disease.  Additionally, § 22.1-3.4 of the Code provides specific requirements for the immediate enrollment of children in foster care who do not have the requisite physical examination report.  Children of military families, without documentation of immunizations, should be immediately enrolled and shall have up to 30 days from the date of enrollment to obtain any immunizations required by the receiving state. (§ 22.1-360)  The Compact does not waive the physical examination requirement for these children. 

Please note that while the report of the comprehensive physical examination must contain the elements prescribed by the State Health Commissioner, state law does not require it to be on the School Entrance Health Form, MCH 213G, in order to be accepted by the local school board.  Therefore, school divisions cannot deny enrollment to a student who provides the necessary report on a different form, as long as that form is attached to a MCH 213G.  For more information, please refer to Superintendent’s Memorandum #103-12, issued on April 20, 2012:  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/administrators/superintendents_memos/2012/103-12.shtml


Pursuant to § 22.1-271.2 of the Code, no student shall be admitted by a school if his parent does not submit documentary proof of immunization to the admitting official unless, at the time of admission,  the student is exempted from immunization pursuant to subsection C, or the student is a homeless child or youth as defined in § 22.1-3.  If a student does not have documentary proof of immunization, the school shall notify the student or his parent: (i) that it has no documentary proof of immunization for the student; (ii) that it may not admit the student without proof unless the student is exempted pursuant to subsection C, including any homeless child or youth as defined in § 22.1-3; (iii) that the student may be immunized and receive certification by a licensed physician, licensed nurse practitioner, registered nurse, or an employee of a local health department; and (iv) how to contact the local health department to learn where and when it performs these services.  Documentation indicating that the child has received the required immunizations must be provided.  Please review the School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements  (available on the Web site for the Virginia Department of Health) for a list of the required immunizations.

Any child whose immunizations are incomplete may be admitted conditionally if the parent or guardian provides documentation, at the time of enrollment, that the child has received at least one dose of the required immunizations and has a written schedule for completing the remaining doses within 90 days.  If the student requires more than two doses of hepatitis B vaccine, the conditional enrollment period shall be 180 calendar days.  

No certificate of immunization shall be required for a student’s school admission if the student or his parent submits an affidavit to the admitting official stating that the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the student's religious tenets or practices; or the school has written certification from a licensed physician, licensed nurse practitioner, or a local health department that one or more of the required immunizations may be detrimental to the student's health, indicating the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstance that contraindicates immunization.

General Information

Section 22.1-254 of the Code (the compulsory attendance law) provides:

Section 22.1-1 of the Code defines a person of school age to mean a person who will have reached his fifth birthday on or before September 30 of the school year and who has not reached twenty years of age on or before August 1 of the school year. 

Section 22.1-3 of the Code provides “[t]he public schools in each school division shall be free to each person of school age who resides within the school division….”

Generally, students transferring from high schools in other countries who are 18 and 19 should be counseled on all options.  However, they are still eligible for enrollment as a person of school age as provided in the Code unless they have a comparable diploma from a high school located in a foreign country.  If a receiving school division has questions about a student’s diploma or transcript, the receiving school division should research the issues to determine what kind of diploma the child has.  In addition, students who are from other countries and who have special education needs may be eligible for special education and related services through age 21 if they have not graduated with a comparable diploma from a high school located in a foreign country. If a limited English proficient student is enrolled in a Virginia public school and turns 22 during the school year, that student may continue through the end of that school year. 

All school divisions must comply with 34 CFR PART 110 (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Age in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance).  In addition, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal funds, and refusal by a school division to enroll qualified students on the basis of race, color, or national origin is a violation of this prohibition against discrimination.

You may wish to review §§ 22.1-1, 22.1-3, and 22.1-5 of the Code of Virginia for additional enrollment information.  These sections provide additional details regarding requirements related to school age and residency.

Please contact the Office of Policy at (804) 225-2092, or by e-mail at policy@doe.virginia.gov, if you need additional information.