BOSTON – Massachusetts immigrant advocates commend Attorney General Maura Healy for issuing an advisory reminding school officials across the state of their obligations under state and federal law to provide all elementary and secondary students with the same access to public education, regardless of their citizenship or nationality. immigration status.
“We are delighted to see the Attorney General issue this updated guidance on equitable access to public education, regardless of immigration status,” said Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). “In Massachusetts, there are approximately 15,000 undocumented school-age children and youth. These children and youth deserve the opportunity, like all children and youth, to grow in all the ways that school makes possible: academically, socially, and emotionally.”
The advisory, which was released on April 11, updates previous guidance issued by the Office of the Attorney General. Remember that “state and federal laws require that educational agencies and local school districts provide all school-age children with equal access to a public education, regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, etc. national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status.”
The notice comes on the heels of recent increases in newcomer students to Massachusetts school districts. The Attorney General’s Office maintains that the fulfillment of the obligations with these recently arrived students continues to be crucial.
“Schools play a critical role in the development of young people, and all children deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in a safe and supportive environment,” said Attorney General Healey. “We are issuing this notice 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 a growing number of newcomers from Brazil, Afghanistan, Haiti and Central America.
“Many of these newcomers are school-age children who need to enroll in school as soon as possible,” explains the website, which provides information and resources for districts to support the enrollment and education of newcomer and refugee students.
Heloisa Galvão, Executive Director of the Brazilian Women’s Group, said she was happy to see the Attorney General’s notice sent.
“It is timely, necessary and fair,” he said. “Children belong in school no matter what. Education is liberating and gives children the sense of belonging they need to grow into empowered citizens. We congratulate the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey and hope this notice ends school enrollment delays once and for all.”
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, thanked the Attorney General for her leadership in ensuring that all children have access to public education.
“It is vitally important to remind school districts of their duty, and legal obligation, to educate all children, regardless of identity or background,” he said.
In addition to reminding school districts and officials that enrollment practices that distinguish students based on their actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status violate state and federal law, the AG’s notice also emphasizes that equitable 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 Office of the Attorney General points to existing state and federal laws that protect the rights of immigrant students, including:
– The Massachusetts Student Discrimination Lawwhich states that no person may be excluded from a public school in any town or discriminated against by a school district on the basis of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.
– The Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law prohibits bullying by students or teachers on school grounds or at school activities.
– Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964that 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 1964which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
– The Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974which requires schools to provide English language learners with appropriate services to overcome language barriers that prevent equal participation in instructional programs.
– Plyler v. Doe 1982 Decisionwhich established that public elementary and secondary schools cannot deny access to public education to any child residing in the corresponding jurisdiction, whether or not he 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 immigration status.
“In cases where families are unable to provide documents to school districts to verify enrollment eligibility, school districts should work with families to find alternative methods of establishing residency or proof of age for the student to enroll. at school. For example, if a family does not have a birth certificate for a child, the district may accept an affidavit from the parent indicating the child’s date of birth,” the notice read.
Within the updated notice, the AG’s Office also encourages school districts to seek documents for additional guidance from agencies and organizations such as the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Education, and the US Department of Education. Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary. These agencies have provided materials such as a resource guide on how to support undocumented youth and how to welcome newly arrived and refugee students and families.
For more information about the civil rights of students in Massachusetts or to file a complaint, contact the Office of the Attorney General, Civil Rights Division at 617-963-2917.