The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on Thursday issued updated guidance to public elementary and secondary schools to ensure that no child is denied equal access to education, no matter their immigration status.
In a dear colleague letter, the departments jointly told schools “you must ensure that you do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and that students are not barred from enrolling in public schools at the elementary and secondary level on the basis of their own citizenship or immigration status or that of their parents or guardians.” It also notes that “districts may not request information with the purpose or result of denying access to public schools on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”
The updated guidance includes enrollment policies that are acceptable – and those that are not acceptable – in U.S. public schools. For example, schools can request proof of residency to ensure a student lives within their district, but they may not ask about a student’s citizenship or immigration status to prove residency in the district. Additionally, a district can request a student’s social security number, but it can’t prevent children from enrolling or attending if they don’t provide one.
“Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘The Justice Department will do everything it can to make sure schools meet this obligation. We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”