Federal News in Brief

Letter Reminds U.S. Schools of Obligations to Immigrants

By Mark Walsh — May 17, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Obama administration issued a letter this month reminding school administrators nationwide of their obligation under federal law to enroll children regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

“Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status,” says the May 6 letter.

It cites Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public schools. It also cites Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that held that a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child, whether that child is present in the country legally or not.

The letter is signed by Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education; Charles P. Rose, the Education Department’s general counsel; and Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Along with its accompanying documents, the letter suggests that some elementary and secondary schools are discouraging the enrollment of undocumented immigrant children by asking about their immigration status, denying enrollment to those with foreign birth certificates, or denying enrollment to children whose parents decline to provide their Social Security numbers or race and ethnicity information.

The Education and Justice departments stress that schools may require proof that a child lives within district boundaries, but that schools may not ask about a child’s immigration status to establish residency. Schools may also ask for birth certificates to establish a child’s age, but may not bar enrollment because of a foreign birth certificate. They may ask for children’s Social Security numbers as student identifiers, but should inform parents that disclosure is voluntary and may not deny enrollment if parents refuses.

Schools “may wish to review the documents your district requires for school enrollment to ensure that the requested documents do not have a chilling effect on a student’s enrollment in school,” the letter states.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2011 edition of Education Week as Letter Reminds U.S. Schools of Obligations to Immigrants

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Biden Drops Out of Race and Endorses Kamala Harris to Lead the Democratic Ticket
The president's endorsement of Harris makes the vice president the most likely nominee for the Democrats.
3 min read
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington. He announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris as his replacement for the Democratic nomination.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Opinion The Great Project 2025 Freakout
There's nothing especially scary in the Heritage Foundation's education agenda—nor is it a reliable gauge of another Trump administration.
6 min read
Man lurking behind the American flag, suspicion concept.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Data Is the Federal Agency That Tracks School Data Losing Steam?
A new study of U.S. data agencies finds serious capacity problems at the National Center for Education Statistics.
3 min read
Illustration of data bar charts and line graphs superimposed over a school crossing sign.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty images
Federal Trump's VP Pick: What We Know About JD Vance's Record on Education
Two days after a gunman tried to assassinate him, former President Donald Trump announced Ohio Sen. JD Vance as his running mate.
4 min read
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio.
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump on July 15 announced the first-term Ohio senator as his running mate.
Jeff Dean/AP