Equity & Diversity

Feds: Schools Are Obliged to Educate the Undocumented

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 10, 2011 1 min read

The federal government is trying to make it absolutely clear that schools must enroll children regardless of their immigration status and that they shouldn’t be carrying out any practices that would discourage immigrant families from having their children participate in school.

Over at The School Law Blog, my colleague Mark Walsh summarizes the contents of a “dear colleague letter” released by the U.S. Department of Education on May 6 that tells schools they must make sure their requests for particular documents during enrollment don’t have a chilling effect on immigrant students’ school participation.

The letter says schools can ask for children’s Social Security numbers to use for student identification purposes, but they should tell parents why they are asking for the numbers and also explain that such disclosure is voluntary.

Back in 2007, I reported that several states have policies or regulations that clarify what kinds of documents schools can request to establish whether a parent or legal guardian of a student is a resident of a school district.

This is the first time I recall over the last decade that the U.S. Department of Education has released anything in writing clarifying the matter.

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