PHILADELPHIA - The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Cozen O’Connor, lead counsel in the challenge to Hazleton’s anti-immigrant ordinances, have sent a letter to the Hazleton Area School District warning that enactment of a proposed policy on student enrollment and registration would violate the law. The Hazleton Area School Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal tonight.
“The proposed enrollment and registration requirements for Hazelton violate both the letter and the spirit of Pennsylvania Department of Education regulations,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The entire ‘procedure’ appears calculated to deter immigrants and others new to the district from enrolling their children in school. A school district should be encouraging education, not discouraging it.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (DOE) has published extensive guidance to school districts warning that all students who reside within a district have a right to education and that enrollment requirements and procedures should not be a barrier to education. The DOE regulations state that a school district can require proof of residence, and can even request more than one form of proof of residence, but add: “However, school districts and charter schools should be flexible in verifying residency, and should consider what information is reasonable in light of the family’s situation.”
The proposed Hazleton regulation would require families new to Hazelton to produce four separate documents to verify their address – unless they are not the home owner or lessee of the property. In that case, the parent must provide four proofs of address and the homeowner or lessee must also provide an additional four proofs of address. The new policy also “recommends” that new parents submit detailed census information for the entire household, tax forms, and other documents.
The Education Law Center also sent a letter to the school board against the proposed policy.