In response to reports that the Hempstead Union Free School District and other Long Island school districts continue to block immigrant children from their right to an education, a coalition of advocacy organizations, faith-based groups, and providers of legal and social services working in Nassau and Suffolk counties has sent a letter to the New York State Education Department urging reforms. The New York Civil Liberties Union helped draft the letter.
"Many of our organizations have received repeated complaints from individuals and families about school districts refusing to enroll children, placing children in inappropriate or inadequate programs, and creating arbitrary barriers to deter enrollment," the letter states. "In many cases, these factors lead to an effective denial of the New York State Constitutional right to a public education."
Among the commonsense recommendations the groups make are that the state requires that enrollment information and instructions be made publicly available and on district websites; that students be enrolled and begin attendance immediately upon request even where there is a pending review of residency; and that the state Education Department clarify that districts may not require specific, burdensome materials establishing residency, age and guardianship that may discourage many families from attempting to enroll their children for school.