MARTINEZ V. BYNUM, 461 U. S. 321 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Martinez v. Bynum, 461 U.S. 321 (1983)

Martinez v. Bynum

No. 81-857

Argued January 10, 1983

Decided May 2, 1983

461 U.S. 321


Texas Education Code § 21.031(d) permits a school district to deny tuition-free admission to its public schools for a minor who lives apart from a "parent, guardian, or other person having lawful control of him" if his presence in the district is "for the primary purpose of attending the public free schools." Petitioner's brother left his parents' home in Mexico to live with petitioner in McAllen, Tex., for the primary purpose of attending school there. When the School District denied her brother's application for tuition-free admission, petitioner, as his next friend, and other custodians of school-age children brought an action in Federal District Court, alleging that § 21.031(d) is unconstitutional on its face. The District Court granted judgment for the defendants, holding that § 21.031(d) was justified by the State's legitimate interests in protecting and preserving the quality of its educational system and the right of its bona fide residents to attend state schools on a preferred tuition basis. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Section 21.031 is a bona fide residence requirement that satisfies constitutional standards. Pp. 461 U. S. 325-333.

(a) A bona fide residence requirement, appropriately defined and uniformly applied, furthers the substantial state interest in assuring that services provided for the State's residents are enjoyed only by residents. Such a requirement with respect to attendance in public free schools does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment nor burden the constitutional right of interstate travel. A bona fide residence requirement simply requires that the person establish residence before demanding the services that are restricted to residents. Moreover, in the public school context, the fact that provision for primary and secondary education is one of the most important functions of local government is an adequate justification for local residence requirements. Absent such requirements, the proper planning and operation of the schools would suffer significantly. Pp. 461 U. S. 325-330.

(b) At the very least, a school district generally would be justified in requiring school-age children or their parents to satisfy the traditional, basic residence criteria -- i.e., to live in the district with a bona fide intention of remaining there -- before it treated them as residents. Section

Page 461 U. S. 322

21.031 not only grants the benefits of residency to all who satisfy the traditional residence definition, but goes further and extends those benefits to many children even if they (or their families) do not intend to remain in the district indefinitely. As long as the child is not living in the district for the sole purpose of attending school, he satisfies the statutory test. Since there is no indication that this extension of the traditional definition has any impermissible basis, it cannot be said that § 21.031(d) violates the Constitution. Pp. 461 U. S. 330-333.

648 F.2d 425, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 461 U. S. 333. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 461 U. S. 334.

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