Hazleton Area School District

School district requires excessive documentation to prove residency

Attorneys/Firms: Thomas Wilkinson, Jr. & Ilan Rosenberg (Cozen O'Connor); Mary Catherine Roper & Vic Walczak (ACLU-PA)

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Cozen O’Connor, lead counsel in the challenge to Hazleton’s anti-immigrant ordinances, sent a letter to the Hazleton Area School District on January 28, 2010, warning that enactment of a proposed policy on student enrollment and registration would violate the law. The Hazleton Area School Board was scheduled to vote on the proposal that evening. The school board postponed voting on the policy until its March 4 meeting to allow for revisions.

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 ACLU sent another letter on March 2, 2010, warning that although the policy had been improved, serious constitutional problems remained.

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