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School District Looks to Modify Child/Guardian Policy


BRADENTON – Changes to Manatee School District policy concerning student enrollment and educational decisions were discussed at Tuesday's meeting; notably, changes that would allow anyone defined by a court order as "guardian" of a child would have rights to make decisions in their child-student's school life with regard to enrollment and school activities, including visitation.

The board approved to give notice through advertising of a public hearing of the proposed changes to occur at its September 9 meeting.

Staff attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum advised the Manatee School Board that one of the goals of the revised policy was to "avoid having one parent stopping another from visiting their child." 

The revised policy states, "Schools are not the venue for custody or visitation enforcement. The District will not be caught in the middle of disputes, will not take sides, or show preference to one party over another." 

The amended policy also states that stepparents "have no legal rights regarding enrollment and school activities, unless guardianship or power of attorney to act on behalf of the spouse is established."

During discussion, board member Dave Miner expressed concern that adoptive parents would not have the same rights given to biological parents in the policy. Teitelbaum advised that the policy "defines a student's parent by several categories: biological, domestic partners, any person relationship with a student, guardian is also addressed ... we did not forget adoptive parents," he said.

The staff attorney added that as guardianship of a child is only established as a court order, adoptive parents fall under said category of court-controlled guardianship.

When board member Barbara Harvey enquired about situations where "the court has ordered no contact with the child" for one of the parents, Teitelbaum replied that if the district receives such a court order, "we've allowed within this policy as notification (for the other parent saying):"someone has just presented a court order; please bring us proof to the contrary."

Miner made a motion to change language in the policy concerning adoptive parents, as he felt that the language could be more clear that they would have the same rights as a biological parent would under the policy.

During public comments, Glenn Gibellina, who has a daughter in the school district and has frequently come before the board urging them to address the matter of parental visitation rights, praised Mr. Teitelbaum and other staff for their work in amending the policy.


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