Any Immigrants Having Enrollment Problems? MALDEF Will Step In

By Mary Ann Zehr — August 17, 2007 1 min read
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Every once in a while, I hear of a situation in which a school district employee doesn’t know that children are entitled to a free K-12 public education in this country regardless of their immigration status—and causes unnecessary problems for immigrant parents. That reportedly was the case with the assistant of the superintendent of the North Chicago Community Unit School District #187, in North Chicago, Ill., who is accused of telling a parent she couldn’t enroll her child in school without providing proof of legal residency or work authorization.

A regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reports in an Aug. 9 letter to Superintendent Sandra Ellis that though the issue was eventually resolved--after MALDEF intervened--he still finds it disturbing that the district employee was so uninformed about federal and state laws. He also said it was disturbing that the employee gave the parent information from the Web site of an organization fighting illegal immigration, the American Resistance Foundation (which, according to its Web site, is now defunct.) An Aug. 10 MALDEF press release has other details.

By the way, Illinois is one state that recently has taken extra steps to clarify that school officials cannot inquire about a parent’s immigration status. (Click here for an article I wrote for Education Week in April about the rule change.)

The employee that MALDEF identifies as being misinformed didn’t return my call seeking her side of the story.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here that school districts need to ensure that anyone who interacts with parents on student registration issues must be clear about what immigrant students’ rights are under the law.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.