IowaLegalAid.orgIowa

All Children Have a Right to Public Education

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All children, regardless of their immigration status, are entitled to a public education. Public schools cannot refuse to admit a student during initial enrollment or at any other time on the basis of immigration status. Public schools cannot treat a student differently to verify residence or do something to discourage the right of access to a school.

Social Security numbers are not required to enroll in a public school. A school may ask for a social security number as a way to identify each student, but the school must explain that a social security number isn't necessary to begin school. The school can assign another unique identifying number to a student who doesn't have a social security number.

The free and reduced price lunch programs are available to low-income students regardless of their immigration status. Usually the application for the free or reduced price lunch program includes a place to include social security numbers, but parents and students who don't have a social security number can write "none" or "not applicable" in that space on the form.

Migrant and immigrant students are entitled to receive help learning English if it is not their primary language. Under federal law, a student who cannot speak English has the right to receive special assistance to help them learn English, so they can participate in school lessons.

Migrant and immigrant students are entitled to receive special education services if they have learning, physical or mental disabilities. Under federal law, students must be tested for learning difficulties in their native language. These tests should be completed early in the school year for migrant children, since they typically move often. Schools should tell parents the test results in their native language as soon as possible. When a family changes schools, the parents should ask for the student's school records so the next school can immediately provide the same services and the student will not fall behind in the new school.

Parents have the right to learn about a student's progress and any difficulties. Schools must adequately notify parents, in their native language, about what is happening in school. Parents should be well informed about school events and programs so they can make the right decisions for their children.

Parents have the right to ask for and obtain their children's school records. Schools cannot release personal information about the children without the parent's permission. As a result, schools cannot give information about students or their families to Immigration.

Parents have the right to know about their child's discipline problems. Schools must communicate any discipline problems with the parents, in their native language. Parents need to know about any charges or discipline their children may face. Students cannot be suspended for more than 10 days without having a hearing with the school board. Parents can have an attorney represent them in any meeting with school officials. If the police are involved in an incident at school, the student can ask for his or her parents to be present. The police cannot question a student under the age of 18 if the student asks for parents to be present.
Last Review and Update: May 11, 2009
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