Recently, both the California Department of Education (CDE) and the federal government have reminded school districts of their obligation to serve every child, including immigrant children. This aligns with the 1982 United States Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe
, in which the Court held that undocumented students have a constitutional right to a free K-12 public education.
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education recently issued a letter advising school districts of their obligation to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing within each district. The letter's advice includes:
- While districts may require students or their parents to provide proof of residency within the district (i.e. phone bill, water bill, or lease agreement), citizenship or immigration status is not relevant to such an inquiry.
- School districts may not bar a student's enrollment because he or she lacks a birth certificate, has a foreign birth certificate, or chooses not to provide a social security number.
- Districts should review their required enrollment documents to ensure that the requested documents do not have a chilling effect on a student's
In August 2014, the CDE reiterated the obligation to serve all children in California, announcing it has set aside $3.5 million in federal Title III funding to assist schools that experience a significant increase in immigrant children this school year, including unaccompanied immigrant children. Most of the children who seek enrollment in a school district that are unaccompanied, including unaccompanied immigrant children, would fit the definition of "homeless" under federal and state law. Such children do not have to produce residency records normally required for enrollment.
The federal and CDE reminders reiterate that districts have an obligation to provide immigrant children, including unaccompanied children, with an equal education.
If you have any questions regarding enrollment documents, applying for Title III Immigrant funding, or the obligation to serve all children, please contact one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or download our Client News Brief App.