St. Louis Residency Rule and Failing Schools Prompt Firefighter’s Suit

Today’s burning question: I am a firefighter and I am bound by the fire department residency requirement to live in the city. I cannot afford to send my children to private school and the city schools are terrible. Can I sue?

Answer: That is exactly what five St. Louis firefighters are doing, alleging that because the city’s schools have lost accreditation, state law allows them to send their children to an accredited school district at the city’s expense.

The state law in question is the Outstanding Schools Act of 1993, Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 167.131, that states as follows:  “The board of education of each district in this state that does not maintain an accredited school pursuant to the authority of the state board of education to classify schools as established in section 161.092 shall pay the tuition of and provide transportation consistent with the provisions of section 167.241 for each pupil resident therein who attends an accredited school in another district of the same or an adjoining county.”

The problem is the accredited districts are refusing to honor the application of St. Louis residents claiming the costs associated with the influx of students would cause them financial and logistical problems that would threaten their accreditation as well.

The five St. Louis Firefighters, supported by IAFF Local 73, filed suit against the city of St. Louis and three St. Louis County districts, namely Lindbergh, Kirkwood, and Webster Groves. The firefighters allege that they were turned away when they tried to enroll their children in the accredited districts. The suit also claims that since the city requires them to live in St. Louis, the city bears responsibility for the problem as well.  

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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