The New Jersey Department of Education recently issued an advisory to ensure that all local education agency personnel are aware of federal and state laws that prohibit denying the enrollment of students in the public schools based on immigration status.
In Plyer v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court held that undocumented children living in the United States could not be excluded from public elementary and secondary schools based upon their immigration status. Accordingly, school districts are prohibited from requiring students to disclose or document their immigration status, making inquiries of students or parents that may expose their undocumented status or engaging in any practices that hinder the right of access to public schools.
New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.3) prohibits the barring of any student from public elementary and secondary schools based on immigration/visa status, except for students on F-1 visas. Districts should continue to enroll all students between the ages of 5 and 20 who are domiciled in the district or who are otherwise entitled to attend pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:38.1, and the implementing regulations, N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.2, et. seq.
Additionally, N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.4 prohibits school districts from making enrollment contingent upon the receipt of information or documentation. When enrolling students, a school district may request verification of residency; however, the district cannot deny enrollment based on a failure to present a particular form.
Further, when requesting documentation of a student’s age, school districts may not prohibit enrollment if the parent/guardian is unable to either present a birth certificate or if they present a foreign birth certificate.
The full advisory contains additional information, including what is meant by “immigrant” and “migrant status.” As the advisory explains, “It is important to note that immigrant does not necessarily mean migrant.” The advisory also includes information on how the rules and regulations pertaining to unaccompanied immigrant children and the collection of various records. The advisory notes that the NJDOE has created a translation services resource with a list of entities in each county that provide translation services at little or no cost.
Stakeholders are encouraged to read the full advisory for complete information. For further information on the enrollment of immigrant students, contact your executive county superintendent of schools or the Office of Supplemental Educational Programs via email. For clarification on school health requirements, contact the Office of Student Support Services via email.