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Two members of the Obama Administration issued a stern warning to public school districts around the country on Thursday, stating that students cannot be excluded based on their immigration status.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan reminded districts that they could be violating federal law if they turn away a child because the student or their parents are undocumented, reports The New York Times.
The Justice and Education departments issued an update to guidelines released in 2011. Duncan and Holder noted that since then, they have continued to hear complaints of undocumented children being barred from a public education. There have been 17 complaints of school districts requiring documents that an illegal immigrant would not have.
These policies “markedly weaken our nation" by leaving young people unprepared and ill-equipped to succeed and contribute,” Holder said, according to NBC News.
Holder was quoting from the 1982 Supreme Court Plyer v. Doe/i> case that set the precedent that immigration status of a child should not keep them from receiving an American public school education. Civil rights laws also keep districts from discriminating against students based on their parents’ status.
“Sadly too many schools and districts are still denying rights to undocumented children,” Duncan told reporters. “That behavior is unacceptable, and it must change.”
Some of the guidelines from the Education and Justice Departments state that districts cannot force parents to provide their Social Security Numbers and that a school cannot keep a student from enrolling if he or she does not have a birth certificate.