children, regardless of immigration status, can attend a free
public school in the United
This right is guaranteed by law. In 1982, the United States
Supreme Court decided a
called Plyler v. Doe. This case invalidated a Texas
statute that denied enrollment in the
schools to children not “legally admitted” in the country.
Supreme Court said that denial of education violates not only
our political and cultural history, but also the Equal
Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Brennan, who
wrote the Supreme Court opinion, said, “Education provides the
basic tools by which individuals might lead economically
productive lives to the benefit of us all.
education has a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of
our society. We cannot ignore the significant social costs borne
by our Nation when select groups are denied the means to absorb
the values and skills upon which our social order rests.”
What does the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe mean to
that public schools may not:
admission to a student during initial enrollment or at any other
time on the basis
a student differently to verify residency;
Engage in any practices that “chill” or hinder the right of
access to school;
inquiries of students or parents that may expose their
UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO ENROLL IN SCHOOL- WHAT
SCHOOLS CAN AND CANNOT REQUIRE?
• Are schools allowed to require Social Security Numbers?
NO – According to the Privacy Act of 1974, social security numbers
are not required for enrollment. While a school may ask for a
it must explain at the same time that it does not require the
number and that it will assign a unique identifier to any
student who does not have a social security number.
• Are schools allowed to require Birth Certificates?
NO - Birth Certificates cannot be required
enrollment. The Michigan Revised School Code (MCL
380.1135(1)) provides that a person
enrolling in school can have either (1) a certified copy of the
birth certificate; OR (2) other
reliable proof of the student’s identity and age AND an
affidavit explaining the inability to
a copy of the birth certificate. The Revised School Code is
flexible as to what
constitutes other reliable proof that could serve as an
alternative to a birth certificate.
Examples of documents that could be accepted by schools in the
Church Record (baptismal document – showing date, place of
child’s birth, names of
School Record (information showing date of admission, child’s
date of birth or age at the
the place of birth, the names of the parents);
Census Record (state or federal census record showing the names,
place of birth, date of
or the age of the person listed);
Affidavits (written statements sworn to or affirmed by two
persons who were living at
time and who have personal knowledge of the child’s birth).
• Are schools allowed to require Immunization Proof?
YES – Under the Michigan Code (MCL 333.9208, 333.9215,
380.1177), immunizations may be required before a child can be
permitted to enter or attend school. School districts may
require that parents or guardians present documentation at the
time of registration or not later that the first day of school
that: (1) their child has received all required doses of
vaccines OR (2) that their child has received at least one dose
of each of the required vaccines and is waiting to receive the
Vaccinations may be waived if there is a valid medical
complication or the parents have
opposing religious convictions. The key issue with respect to
immunizations is that children
not be treated differently because of their national origin,
English proficiency, or
status. All children should be treated equally under the school
district’s policy. School districts may not require additional
or different immunizations for immigrant or migrant children.
UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE ON SCHOOL
• Are undocumented children entitled to participate on The Free and
Reduced School Lunch or Breakfast programs?
YES – According to federal regulations (7 C.F.R. 245.3(b)(2);
245 6(a)), the Free and Reduced School Lunch or Breakfast
programs are available to low-income children regardless of
their immigration status or their parent’s immigration status.
While the application for the free and reduced meal programs has
a blank for a parent or guardian’s social security number,
parents who have not been issued a social security number may
• Should schools provide special Language classes for children
whose English is not their first language?
YES - A school could be committing national origin
discrimination under Title VI if it fails to provide some form
of language assistance to limited English proficient students
otherwise precluded from participating meaningfully in school.
This law is from a case called
Lau v. Nichols decided by the Supreme
Court of the United States.
• Are undocumented children entitled to participate on Special
Education Needs Programs?
Migrant students with special education needs are entitled to
receive free appropriate
education. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act
(IDEA), the law requires that children be fairly assessed in
their native language, and classified according to the type of
disability. The assessment and the placement must be carried out
quickly and parents must be kept informed of their child’s
educational plan in a language the parent understands.
MIGRANT PARENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE ON SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
School districts have the responsibility to adequately notify
parents of national origin minority group students of school
activities that are called to the attention of the other
Notification must be sufficient so that parents can make
well-informed decisions about the
participation of their children in a district’s programs and
services. Districts may be required to provide notification in
the parents’ home language. This information was published on
Provision of Equal Educational Opportunity to Limited-English
Proficient Students published by the U.S. Department of
Education Office of Civil rights in August 2000.
state of Michigan and each school district that receives monies
from the federal migrant education program for a regular school
year program must have a migrant parent advisory committee to
develop a comprehensive plan according to the No Child Left
Behind Act of 2002.
UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN AND PARENTS HAVE PRIVACY RIGHTS
the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), educators
are not allowed to
a child’s educational records without parental or guardian
consent. Educators are also NOT allowed to “expose” children and
their families to immigration enforcement authorities.
mandates that no funds shall be made available to any
educational agencies or
institutions that release a student’s “personally identifiable
information” without the written
of the student’s parents or guardians. The federal regulations
identifiable information” as including, but not limited to, the
student’s name, the names of the
student’s parents, and most importantly, a social security
number or other personal identifier
have any questions or know of any child that has been denied an
education due to his or her national origin, immigration status,
limited English proficiency, or frequent
migration, contact the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
at (269) 492-7196: