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Information on the Rights of All Children to Enroll in School

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All children in the United States are entitled to a basic public elementary and secondary education regardless of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, or the status of their parents/guardians. School districts that either prohibit or discourage, or maintain policies that have the effect of prohibiting or discouraging, children from enrolling in schools because they or their parents/guardians are not U.S. citizens or are undocumented may be in violation of Federal law.

Below are some examples of acceptable enrollment policies, such as requesting proof of residency in the school district, as well as policies that may not be used by schools to deny enrollment to your child.

  • Proof of Residency in the School District. 


    • School officials may request proof that you live within the boundaries of the school district. School districts typically accept a variety of documents for this purpose, such as copies of phone and water bills, lease agreements, affidavits, or other documents. A school district’s requirements to establish residency must be applied in the same way for all children.


    • A school district may not ask about your or your child’s citizenship or immigration status to establish residency within the district, nor may a school district deny a homeless child (including a homeless child who is undocumented) enrollment because he or she cannot provide the required documents to establish residency.
  • Proof of Age.


    • School officials may request documentation to show that a student falls within the school district’s minimum and maximum age requirements. School districts typically accept a variety of documents for this purpose, such as religious, hospital, or physician’s certificate showing date of birth; an entry in a family bible; an adoption record; an affidavit from a parent; or previously verified school records.


    • A school district may not prevent or discourage your child from enrolling in or attending school because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has a foreign birth certificate.
  • Social Security Numbers.


    • Some school districts request a student’s social security number during enrollment to use as a student identification number.  If a school district chooses to request a student’s social security number, it must: (1) inform you and your child that providing it is voluntary and that refusing to provide it will not bar your child from enrolling in or attending school, and (2) explain for what purpose the number will be used.


    • A school district may not prevent your child from enrolling in or attending school if you choose not to provide your child’s social security number.


    • A school district may not require you to provide your own social security number in order for your child to enroll in or attend school.
  • Race or Ethnicity Data.


    • School districts have some Federal and state obligations to report race and ethnicity data about the students in their schools. A school district may request that you provide your child’s race or ethnicity for this purpose.


    • However, a school district may not bar your child from enrolling if you choose not to provide your child’s race or ethnicity.

If you want to learn more about your rights and the rights of your child when enrolling in public school, or if you believe that a school district is violating Federal law, you may contact the following government agencies:

  • Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section
    Telephone: (877) 292-3804 (toll-free)
    Fax: (202) 514-8337
    Email: education@usdoj.gov

Revised June, 2012

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights


 
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Last Modified: 05/06/2014