In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Henry County School District have entered into a settlement agreement to ensure that all students in the district are able to enroll in school, regardless of national origin or immigration status. The settlement agreement resolves DOJ’s investigation into allegations that the district improperly notified parents that their children would be withdrawn from school for not providing a social security number, and failed to make its enrollment procedures accessible to parents with limited proficiency in English.
Under the settlement agreement, the district will ensure that all parents understand that providing their child’s social security number is voluntary, and no child will be denied enrollment or attendance in school for declining to provide a social security number. The settlement agreement also requires the district to provide parents who have limited English proficiency with enrollment and registration information in a language they can understand. The district further agreed to conduct training for administrators and staff on registration and enrollment procedures and proper communication with limited English proficient parents.
“Public schools serve all children in this country, no matter where they or their parents were born,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “No one benefits when a child is kept out of the classroom. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that all that students and their families are welcomed in school, regardless of background. ”
“No child should face barriers to enrolling in school,” said Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “We commend the Henry County School District for working collaboratively with the department and for taking the steps necessary to enroll all students and communicate effectively with limited English proficient families.”
The settlement agreement reflects guidance that the Georgia Department of Education issued to all Georgia school districts in September 2012, after DOJ raised concerns about student enrollment practices in the state. The new guidance makes clear that no student can be denied enrollment in any public school or program for declining to provide a social security number or declining to apply for a social security number.
Source: www.justice.gov, 11/9/12, By Staff
[Editor's Note: In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized the decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) v. State of Alabama, Nos. 11-14535, -14675, and United States v. Alabama, Nos. 11-14532, -14674, which held that the section of Alabama’s immigration law (“Section 28”) requiring public schools to verify, and collect data on, the citizenship and immigration status of enrolling students violates the Equal Protection Clause, and that at least one of the HICA Plaintiffs had standing to challenge Section 28, reversing a district court’s denial of HICA’s motion for a preliminary injunction to bar enforcement of that provision.
In the companion case, United States v. Alabama, the same three-judge panel dismissed the United States’ appeal regarding Section 28 as moot, finding that it was unnecessary to address the United States’ argument that Section 28 is also preempted by federal law, because the panel already determined that Section 28 violated the Equal Protection Clause in the HICA case.]