A.G. Schneiderman Op-Ed: Keeping Schoolhouse Doors Open For Immigrant Children

A.G. Schneiderman Op-Ed: Keeping Schoolhouse Doors Open For Immigrant Children

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wrote an op-ed in Education Week on the importance of ensuring equal access to education opportunities for immigrant children. Highlights from the op-ed are below:

ON THE CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF NEW YORK’S SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: In 2014, many of the thousands of unaccompanied minors who had arrived from Central and South America were settling with their extended families (or being resettled by the federal government) throughout New York state. My office soon began receiving reports that some of these children were encountering unprecedented barriers to enrolling in and attending their local schools.

ON HIS OFFICE’S INVESTIGATIONS INTO DISCRIMINATION BY SCHOOL DISTRICTS: We have found that many districts have been stopping immigrant children from entering school or shunting them off to non-degree-bearing programs—despite the fact that state law grants everyone under the age of 21 the right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status or national origin. Many of these non-degree programs do not even offer students an opportunity to obtain a GED credential, let alone a high school diploma.

ON AGREEMENTS REACHED TO REFORM DISTRICT ENROLLMENT POLICIES:  One year ago, my office reached a settlement with 20 school districts throughout the state to ensure they stopped asking about students’ citizenship and immigration status in their enrollment materials, which can frighten immigrant children into abandoning their efforts to get admitted.

In March 2015, we secured a settlement with the 7,500-student Hempstead Union Free School District, which had been delaying the enrollment of these students through a variety of methods, including overly restrictive policies on proof of immunization, age, and residency—in violation of applicable laws and regulations—as well as regularly telling students or their guardians that there was simply no room at district schools for them. As part of the settlement, the district agreed to retain an ombudsman to provide new internal oversight over its enrollment policies.

The full op-ed can be read here