Schools must provide equal access to public education for all students, regardless of immigration status
BOSTON – Massachusetts Advocates for immigrants congratulate the Attorney General Maura Healy have issued a notice reminding school leaders from across the state obligations under federal and state laws, to provide all elementary students and secondary equal access to public education, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.
“We are delighted to see the Attorney General to publish these updated guidelines on equal access to public education, regardless of immigration status,” said Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition. “In Massachusetts, there are approximately 15,000 undocumented school-aged children and youth. These children and young people deserve the opportunity – like all children and young people – to grow in all the ways that school makes possible: academically, socially and emotionally.”
The notice, which was released on April 11, updates previous guidance issued by the attorney general’s office. “Federal and state law require education agencies and local school districts to provide all school-aged children with equal access to public education — regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status.
The advisory follows recent increases in the number of newly arrived students in Massachusetts school districts. The attorney general’s office argues that fulfilling obligations to these newly arrived students remains crucial.
“Schools play a vital role in the development of young people, and all children deserve the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” Attorney General Healey said. “We are issuing this advisory to remind public school administrators of their obligation to open their doors to all students – including and especially the most vulnerable. »
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, some school districts are seeing increasing numbers of newcomers from Brazil, Afghanistan Haiti, and Central America.
“Many of these newcomers are school-aged children who need to be enrolled in school as soon as possible,” says the website, which provides information and resources to districts to support enrollment and education for children. newcomer and refugee students.
Heloisa Galvão, executive director of the Brazilian Women’s Group, said she was happy to see SENT on the Attorney General’s Advisory.
“It is timely, necessary and just,” she said. “Children belong in school no matter what. Education is liberating and gives children the sense of belonging they need to grow up to be responsible citizens. We commend the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey and hope that this end of notice, once and for all, school enrollment delays.”
Madrigal-iván Espinoza, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, thanked the attorney general for his leadership in ensuring that every child has access to public education.
“It is extremely important to remind school districts of their duty – and legal obligation – to educate all children regardless of their identity or background,” he said.
In addition to reminding school districts and officials that enrollment practices that single out students based on their actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status violate federal and state law, the advisory ‘AG also stresses that equal access to public education means not only the right to enroll in school, but also the right to an education free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.
The Attorney General’s Office points to existing state and federal laws that protect the rights of immigrant students, including:
– The Massachusetts Student Anti-Discrimination Act, which states that no one may be expelled from a public school in any city or discriminated against by any school district on the basis of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual identity. orientation.
– Massachusetts anti-bullying law prohibits bullying by students or teachers on school property or during school functions.
– Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin by public elementary and secondary schools.
– Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
– The 1974 Act on equal opportunities in education, which requires schools to provide learners of English appropriate services to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in educational programs.
– Plyler decision v. Doe of 1982, which ruled that public elementary and secondary schools cannot deny a child residing in the applicable jurisdiction access to public education, whether or not that child is legally present in the country.
The advisory also encourages school districts to avoid drawing conclusions about a prospective student’s immigration status based on characteristics such as language or national origin, or residency based on student status. immigration.
“In cases where families are not able to provide documentation to school districts to verify eligibility for registration, school districts must work with families to find alternative methods to establish residency or proof age so that the student can enroll in the school. for example, if a family does not have a birth certificate for a child, the district may accept an affidavit from the parent stating the date of birth of the child, “said the notice.
On the board updated, the Auditor General also encourages school districts to seek additional guidance documents of agencies and organizations such as the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Education, and Massachusetts Department of elementary and secondary education. These agencies have provided materials as a resource guide on how to support young people in an irregular situation, and how newcomers welcome and refugee students and families.
For more information about student civil rights in Massachusetts or to file a complaint, contact the Civil Rights Division at the Attorney General’s office by calling 617-963-2917.