Judge orders Henry County to let homeless boys back in school

Judge orders Henry County to let homeless boys back in school

One of two homeless students dis-enrolled by Henry County Schools is back in class today at Union Grove High School through a court order. (Photo via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Two homeless boys who were disenrolled from the Henry County School District are now back in class.

In an order signed Wednesday, District Judge Leigh Martin May granted the preliminary injunction filed by the Georgia Legal Services Program on behalf of the children.

In her ruling, the judge agreed with the argument that the only pressing issue was the lack of access to education pending a final determination of whether the boys, identified at K.J. and C.S., belong in Henry County schools.

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Jacopa Johnson, the boys’ mother filed suit in federal court Sept. 7, alleging the school system violated her sons’ rights to an education after the system disenrolled them through a series of mistakes, and it would not allow them to re-enroll.

The boys have been going to school in Henry County since 2014. The system disenrolled them Aug. 17, and the two have been out of classes since. The older boy was an A student, the original suit says.

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A spokesman for the Henry County schools said the issue is in court, and the schools cannot comment about it.

Johnson and her husband suffered a series of financial setbacks, including losing their home and having complicating medical problems. They lived with family and friends in different locations, including outside of Henry County, while Johnson searched for a new job, the suit says.

Based on the address given in the residency affidavits, K.J. and C.S. both began school on July 30 -- K.J. at West Lake Elementary School and C.S. at Union Grove High School. The district initiated a residency investigation on Aug. 1 to determine whether the boys in fact resided at the friend’s address.

That investigation concluded on Aug. 13 after a school resource officer with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department interviewed the boys’ grandfather, who lived in Macon and told the officer that the boys slept in his home every night of the week.

As a result, the district sent a letter to Johnson at the grandfather’s Macon address on Aug. 14, informing her that her sons would be disenrolled from their schools effective Aug. 17 because they did not live within Henry County.

The two issues are whether the boys are still considered homeless since the parent has listed a friend’s home in Henry County as their residence and if the address given as their residence is where they actually live.

The court has given Johnson until Oct. 22 to prove her case, but allowed for an extension if needed.

This article was written by Arlinda Smith Broady, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.