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Any Immigrants Having Enrollment Problems? MALDEF Will Step In


Every once in a while, I hear of a situation in which a school district employee doesn't know that children are entitled to a free K-12 public education in this country regardless of their immigration status—and causes unnecessary problems for immigrant parents. That reportedly was the case with the assistant of the superintendent of the North Chicago Community Unit School District #187, in North Chicago, Ill., who is accused of telling a parent she couldn't enroll her child in school without providing proof of legal residency or work authorization.

A regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reports in an Aug. 9 letter to Superintendent Sandra Ellis that though the issue was eventually resolved--after MALDEF intervened--he still finds it disturbing that the district employee was so uninformed about federal and state laws. He also said it was disturbing that the employee gave the parent information from the Web site of an organization fighting illegal immigration, the American Resistance Foundation (which, according to its Web site, is now defunct.) An Aug. 10 MALDEF press release has other details.

By the way, Illinois is one state that recently has taken extra steps to clarify that school officials cannot inquire about a parent's immigration status. (Click here for an article I wrote for Education Week in April about the rule change.)

The employee that MALDEF identifies as being misinformed didn't return my call seeking her side of the story.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here that school districts need to ensure that anyone who interacts with parents on student registration issues must be clear about what immigrant students' rights are under the law.


While it is true that Plyler v Doe Sup.Ct. ruling says that we must provide a free K-12 education to illegal alien students, it does not require that the kinds of "outreach" for parents that is on the increase is also mandated.

Plyler v Doe addressed who has a right to public schooling (everyone). It did not address parent involvement. However, No Child Left Behind most certainly does require schools and districts to reach out to parents. Furthermore, most educators would do this because it is considered good practice, and it is strongly supported by research. Why would we NOT want to reach out to parents to involve them in their children's education? Regardless of the parents' immigration status, the vast majority of these children are citizens of the United States. What possible good can come to society by excluding some members of the community from receiving a quality education?

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