by Félix Pérez/image courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/
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School districts are legally required to provide all students who reside within their boundaries equal access to an education regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, the Obama administration reiterated in guidance documents issued last week. The guidance was published in response to practices among some school districts that effectively exclude students based on their parents’ 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. These practices contravene Federal law,” wrote the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.
Like educators everywhere, Greensboro, N.C., high school teacher Saletta Urena, abides by an open-door policy. Said Urena:
I am a public school teacher for a reason. I teach whoever walks into my classroom. We don’t distinguish among students based on their ability or where they were born, where their parents come from or their immigration status.
Urena is among tens of thousands of educators, religious leaders, civil rights and labor groups, and businesses that are pressing Congress to address the millions of students and young adults who were brought here as children by their parents, preserve family unity, and create a realistic path to citizenship for the aspiring citizens who call America home.
The federal guidance states that exclusionary enrollment practices violate numerous federal statutes, including sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. Additionally, in 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Plyler v. Doe, ruled that a state may not deny access to a public education to any child living in the state.
Among the documents that can be used to establish student residency are a telephone or utility bill, mortgage or lease document, parent affidavit, rent payment receipts, a copy of a money order made for payment of rent, or a letter from a parent’s employer written on company letterhead. Districts cannot require for the purposes of enrollment a state-issued ID or driver’s license, birth certificate, or Social Security number.