WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Education (DOE) today issued important guidance reminding school districts nationwide of their obligation under federal law to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing in their districts, regardless of their race, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, or the immigration status of their parents and guardians.
The guidance responded to discriminatory enrollment practices, documented in part by the American Civil Liberties Union, that unnecessarily and unlawfully inquire, directly or indirectly, into the immigration status of students and their families and foster the fear that the attempt to enroll in public school may bring students and their families to the attention of the immigration authorities. The guidance instructed school districts to cease all enrollment practices that may chill, discourage or exclude students from school based on immigration status.
The guidance did not establish any new policy but simply reinforced existing law established by the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe that a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child residing in the state, regardless of immigration status.
The guidance made clear that a school district may not:
- ask about a child’s citizenship or immigration status to establish residency within the district; or
- deny a homeless child, including an undocumented homeless child, enrollment because she or he cannot provide the required documents to establish residency.
- a child has a foreign birth certificate; or
- a child or parent chooses not to provide the child’s social security number; or
- a child or parent chooses not to provide the child's race or ethnicity.
Source: American Civil Liberties Union