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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Launches National Initiative to Ensure Access to Education For Immigrant Children

For Immediate Release October 30, 2017

Let Us Learn Initiative Ensures That School Districts Comply With Clearly-Established Law

Guaranteeing All Children the Right to Attend Public School

WASHINGTON, D.C – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is launching a new initiative aimed at ensuring that all students, regardless of their immigration status, can enroll in public school.

The “Let Us Learn: Schools for Every Child” initiative is anchored in the law that all children—regardless of their immigration status—are entitled to a K-12 education.  The initiative aims to protect the rights of students and ensure an equal opportunity for all children, regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents or guardians.  Such efforts to support parents, students, and schools are needed now more than ever while immigrant communities remain the targets of deportation raids, hate crimes, and politically-motivated policies such as the Trump administration’s move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that all children have a right to a public education in our country, regardless of their immigration status,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “The Let Us Learn initiative seeks to ensure that schoolhouse doors across our nation remain open to all students, regardless of their immigration status, and that the rights of all individuals are protected.  Too often, school districts erect unlawful policies and restrictions that lock out vulnerable immigrant and undocumented communities.  In the face of rising xenophobia, ICE raids, and anti-immigrant policies, we are fighting to enforce Supreme Court precedent that ensures that all children enjoy access to a public education.”

“Teachers are on the frontlines in ensuring that all children can access an education, all families are welcome in schools, and all schools follow the law on student enrollment,” observed Brenda Shum, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We support the efforts of educators across the country to ensure that their schools are welcoming and safe learning environments for all children.”

Federal law established through the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe makes clear that schools and districts cannot adopt an enrollment policy that has the effect of denying or discouraging the enrollment of immigrant children based on the immigration status of a student or the student’s parents.  This means that a school district cannot bar a student’s enrollment because he or she does not have a birth certificate.  A school district cannot bar a student because of a foreign place of birth and should accept foreign birth certificates when verifying age.  They also cannot require a driver’s license or state-issued identification from a parent.

As part of the initiative, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent letters to all 50 State Attorneys General reminding them of the law on school enrollment policies in accordance with the Plyler decision.  It identified select school districts around the country whose enrollment policies were not in compliance with the law and demanded that they reform their policies and clarify their publically available enrollment information.  The Lawyers’ Committee also developed and compiled additional resources on school enrollment to ensure that parents and educators know their rights when it comes to enrolling their children in school. Finally, it created an online form for parents and educators to anonymously report districts whose policies appear to be out of compliance with the law.

To learn more about the Let Us Learn initiative, locate resources, and understand students’ rights, click here.


About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.”  The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.


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