Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status. It’s an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education, and fortunately is one that will be carried out here in North Carolina as well.
On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a letter to all North Carolina school districts, reminding them of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.
The letter reads:
School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school.
Additionally, under the new guidance a school may not deny enrollment if a parent is unable or unwilling to provide a student’s Social Security number when requested, and must also inform the parent that disclosure of the number is voluntary. The letter also emphasizes that North Carolina students under the age of 21 who have not yet graduated may not be told they are too old or ineligible to enroll due to a lack of credits or English language skills. Students cannot be required to take an English proficiency examination as a condition of enrollment.
Unfortunately, some Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have denied enrollment to students who can’t produce a certified copy of their birth certificate, the letter points out. However, multiple documents are in fact accepted as proof of a student’s age in lieu of the certified birth certificate, including verified school records, state-issued identification, and a passport.
Through these parallel guidance letters, the federal government and the state of North Carolina are sending a strong message: schools must welcome and enroll all children. It affirms the legacy of Brown v. Board and Plyler v. Doe that all children must be given the opportunity to succeed that only education can provide.
Read the full letter here.