SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 4, 2013

Court upholds Swampscott school residency requirement — and $12K bill

SWAMPSCOTT — After several years of saving her money, Rosalin Martinez bought a condo in Swampscott. She sent her son to Swampscott public schools.

“I came from Cuba in the middle of the night on a boat to give him the opportunity of a good education,” said Martinez, 30.

The problem was, Martinez was actually still living in Lynn during the 2010-2011 school year, while her Burrill Street condo was being renovated to bring it up to code.

Now, the Appeals Court has ruled, Martinez owes the town $12,000, the amount the town says it cost to educate her child for a year while she lived in Lynn.

In a decision released on Friday, the three-judge Appeals Court panel upheld a Superior Court ruling that also found in the town’s favor, citing state law and a prior legal precedent (involving the Hamilton-Wenham school district) that ties public school enrollment to residency, not whether someone owns property or pays taxes in a particular district.

While school officials are pleased, Martinez is not.

“I think it is not fair what Swampscott is doing,” said Martinez. “It’s just not fair.”

She and her lawyer, David Bobrow, argued in court that it’s not fair to bar her son from attending school in a town where she not only paid property taxes but where the child’s social life was centered, pointing to youth sports, after-school activities and even trick-or-treating.

Bobrow said their stay in Lynn was temporary, while the condo was made habitable. He compared it to a situation where a family is forced out of a home by a storm.

Martinez said she and her son, now a third-grader, slept on the floor of an office on Exchange Street because the condo was not safe for them to live in. “It wasn’t safe for any kid to live there,” said Martinez, “because there was construction and dust.”

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