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Nyclu Letter to Sed 07.23.10-1

Nyclu Letter to Sed 07.23.10-1

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09/02/2010

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NYCLU
125BroadStreetNewYork,NY10004(212)6073300Fax(212)6073318www.nyclu.org
EWYORKCIVILLIBERTIESUNION
VIAFACSIMILEANDFIRSTCLASSMAILJuly21,2010DavidM.SteinerCommissioner,NewYorkStateEducationDepartment89WashingtonAvenueAlbany,NewYork12234
Re:UnconstitutionalStudentEnrollmentPractices
DearCommissionerSteiner:WewriteforthefourthtimetoaskthattheNewYorkStateEducationDepartment("SED")takeimmediatestepstoensurethatschooldistricts
in
NewYorkdiscontinuepracticesthatmaydepriveundocumentedchildrenoftheirrighttoapublicschooleducation.Asexplainedinourpreviousletters,manyschooldistrictsinNewYorkStateappeartobediscriminatingagainstundocumentedchildrenbymandatingorrequestingthatfamiliesprovideproofoftheirchild'slawfulimmigrationstatuswhenregisteringthatchildforschool.WeaskthatyoutakeimmediatestepstoensurethatallchildreninNewYorkStateareabletoexercisetheirrighttoapubliceducation,regardlessoftheirimmigrationstatus.
TheNewYorkAffiliateoftheAmericanCivilLibertiesUnion
I
ThomasFrey,President
I
DonnaLieberman,ExecutiveDirector
NewYork'sundocumentedchildrenhavethesamerightasotherchildrenlivinginNewYorktoafreepubliceducation.In1982,theUnitedStatesSupremeCourtruledin
Plylerv.Doe,
457U.S.202,thatstatesviolatetheEqualProtectionClauseoftheFourteenthAmendmentoftheUnitedStatesConstitutionwhentheydenyundocumentedchildrenthesameeducationopportunitythatisprovidedtoUnitedStatescitizens.Schoolsmustnoterectbarriersthatwillpreventundocumentedchildrenfromexercisingtheirrighttoaneducationorimplementpracticesthathaveachillingeffectonimmigrantstudentsseekingtoregisterforschool.Requiringproofofachild'simmigrationstatusinordertoregisterforschoolcreatesanimpermissiblebarriertoeducation.Indeed,evenwhenaschooldistrictdoesnotmakeimmigrationstatusanexplicitconditionofenrollment,requiringsuchinformationorinquiringintoachildorparent'simmigrationstatusduringtheregistrationprocesswillinevitablydiscouragefamiliesfromenrollinginschoolforfearthattheywouldbereportedtofederalimmigrationauthoritiesasaresult.Statelawprovidesguidanceforschooldistrictsonhowtoobtaininformationaboutachild'seligibilityforapubliceducation-includingtheirageandresidency-withoutinfringingonachild'sconstitutionalrights.First,NewYork'sEducationLawguaranteesafreepubliceducationtopersonsovertheageoffiveandundertheageof21whohavenotreceivedahigh
 
schooldiploma.EducationLaw§3202.Schoolsmayinquireaboutachild'sagetoverifytheireligibilityforafreepubliceducation,andschoolofficialsmayrequirethatfamiliespresentachild'sbirthcertificate,orifunavailable,apassportor,ifunavailable,otherdocumentaryevidenceofproofofagewhenregisteringachildforschool.EducationLaw§3218.
1
Second,stateEducationLawprovidesthatchildrenmayattendschoolintheschooldistrictinwhichthey.reside.EducationLaw§3202(1)..Residencyinaschooldistrictisdeterminedbytheindividual'sphysicalpresenceasaninhabitantoftheschooldistrict,andtheindividual'sintenttoresideintheschooldistrict.
AppealofRaquelPlata-Morales,
42,Ed.Dept.Rep.Op.14,798(2002).Achild'sresidenceispresumedtobethatofhisorherparents.
CatlinbyCatlinv.Sobol,
155AD2d24,rev'donothergrounds,77NY2d552(1991).Toestablishachild'sresidencyinaschooldistrict,schoolsmayaskforproofofaddress,suchasautilitybill.Asweexplainbelowingreaterdetail,atleast20percentofschooldistrictsinNewYorkStateappeartobegoingwellbeyondstatelawguidancebymandatingorrequesting'thatchildrenprovideadditionaldocumentationthatwouldrevealtheirimmigrationstatus.Askingforsuchdocumentationisatbestirrelevanttoprovingeligibilitytoattendschoolinaparticulardistrict,andatworstadeliberateattempttopreventundocumentedchildrenfromenrollinginschool.Regardlessofwhereadistrict'spoliciesfallinthisspectrum,theysurelyhavetheimpactofeitherdirectlypreventingqualifiedchildrenfromenrollinginschoolorchillingfamilieswithundocumentedmembersfromattemptingtoenrollachildinschoolinthefirstplace.WefirstwrotetoyouonSeptember8,2009tobringtoyourattentioninformationonfiveschooldistrictsthatappearedtoconditionenrollmentintheirschoolsbasedontheabilityoftheirfamiliestoprovideproofoftheirchild'slawfulimmigrationstatus.WeexplainedinourletterthatacursorysearchbytheNewYorkCivilLibertiesUnionfoundthesefiveschooldistricts,andweaskedthatSEDtakeimmediatestepstoreviewtheregistrationrequirementsofallschooldistrictsinthestate.OnDecember14,2009wewrotetoSEDyetagaintorequestthatyourofficetakeimmediatestepstoensurethatschooldistrictsdonotdepriveundocumentedchildrenoftherighttoregisterforschool.Weneverreceivedasatisfactoryresponse,andonFebruary5,2010wewrotetoyourofficeforathirdtimeexplainingthatSEDisfailingtoadequatelyprotecttheconstitutionalrightofundocumentedchildrentoenrollinpublicschools...Unfortunately,theSEDhasyettorespondtothiscivilrightscrisiswiththethoroughnessandurgencythatitdeserves.ThesoleactiontakenbySEDinresponsetoourconcernshasbeentopostashortnoticeburiedinamuchlongerSEDelectronicnewsbulletinthatremindeddistrictsofapastCommissioner'sdecisiononwhattypeofdocumentationschoolsmayrequireforproofofachild'sageforadmissiontoschool.
l
It
isourunderstandingthatSEDdidnotaskthattheoffendingschooldistrictsrevisetheirpoliciesnordiditinquireaboutotherschooldistrictsinthestatethatmaymaintainsimilarpolicies.Mostalarmingly,itdoesnotappearthatSEDofficialsmadeanyefforttoreachouttofamiliesandchildrenwhomayhavebeenpreventedfromregisteringforschoolbasedsolelyontheirimmigrationstatus.
l
In
anApril20,2010lettertotheNYCLU,SEDAssistantCounselKateGaffneystatedthattheSEDwillnottakeanyadditionalactionstorespondtoourconcerns.
 
GiventhattheStateEducationDepartmenthasfailedtorespondadequatelytothispervasiveproblem,theNYCLUhastakenseveralstepstoensurethatschooldistrictsrefrainfromdiscriminatingagainstundocumentedchildrenintheirregistrationprocedures;stepsthatshouldhavebeenperformedbySEDofficials.First,theNYCLUsentletterstothefiveschooldistrictsreferencedinourSeptember2009lettertoaskthemtorevisetheirpolicies.Fourofthefiveschooldistrictsagreedtorevisetheirpolicies.
/
Second,theNYCLUreviewedtheregistrationpoliciesandpracticesformostschooldistrictsinNewYorkState.Wewereshockedtolearnthatatleast139schooldistricts(20percentofallschooldistricts)inNewYorkappeartohaveinplaceregistrationpoliciesthatdirectlyorindirectlydiscriminateagainstundocumentedchildrenbymandatingorrequestingthatfamiliesprovideproofoftheirchild'slawfulimmigrationstatuswhenregisteringthatchildforschool.Thesepracticesappeartorangeintheirdiscriminatoryintentandpotentialimpact:Somedistrictshaveinplaceglaringlydiscriminatoryregistrationpractices.Take,forexample,theSpencerportCentralSchoolDistrict.Initsstudentregistrationchecklist,itstates:"IfyourchildisnotaU.S.citizenbybirth,pleasebringyourchild's1-94formaResidentAliencard(greencard)
[sic].
Ifthecardisexpireditwillnotbeaccepted."Moreover,initsregistrationapplication,theschooldistrictincludesanentiresectionon"immigrationstatus"thatfamiliesmustcomplete,andstatesthat"immigrationpapersmustbeprovided."Otherschooldistricts,liketheSweetHomeCentralSchoolDistrict,askaboutachild's"VisaExpirationDate"andstatethat"IfnotUSCitizen,mustprovideapassport,VISAtoverifylengthofstay."Yetothers,liketheOxfordAcademyandCentralSchools,mandatethatchildrenprovidetheirSocialSecuritynumberwhenregistering.Whilethismaynotappeartodiscriminateagainstundocumentedchildren,undocumentedchildrenareineligibleforSocialSecuritynumbers,andwillbe,thus,unabletoregisterfor
school.'
Inordertorectifytheseandotherimpermissiblerestrictions,theNYCLUsenttodayletterstoall139schooldistrictsaskingthattheyimmediatelyrevisetheirpoliciesandinformstudentswhomayhavebeendeniedenrollmentasaresultofthesepoliciesabouttheirrighttoattendschoolregardlessoftheirimmigrationstatus.Attachedtothisletteryouwillfindacopyoftheletterwesenttoschooldistrictsandalistoftheschooldistrictstowhomwesentit.Weaskthatyoutakeimmediatestepstorectifythisseriousproblem.Wehavewaited10monthsforasatisfactoryresponse,andwemayneverknowhowmanychildrenhavebeen
2
MandatingthatchildrenprovidetheirSocialSecuritynumberwhenregisteringforschoolalsoraisesconcernsunderthefederalPrivacyActof1974.UnderSection7oftheAct,stateandlocalgovernmentagenciesrequestinganindividual'sSocialSecuritynumbermustalsomakethefollowingdisclosures:(1)whetherdisclosureofaSocialSecuritynumberbytheindividualismandatoryorvoluntary;(2)theauthoritybywhichtheSocialSecuritynumberissolicited;and(3)theusestowhichsuchinformationshallbeput.

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