All children, regardless of citizenship status, have the right to attend a public school without cost. The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that public schools do not have the right to:
- Deny a student admission to the school during the initial enrollment or on any other occasion because of their immigration status.
- Treat a student differently, in order to try to find out their residence.
- Insist on practices that hinder access to school.
A social security number is not necessary for admission to a public school. Although a school may ask for a social security number, the school has the responsibility to explain that the student can be registered and study even without such a number. The school can assign an identification number that the student can use in place of a social security number.
All students can participate in the free or reduced-price meal program regardless of their immigration status. If the application asks for the social security number of one of the parents, you need not respond, and you can fill the space with the word “none” or “not applicable.”
The children of immigrants have the right to ask for help to learn English. Under federal law, when a student cannot speak English well or is not a native English speaker, they have a right to participate in services, such as English Language Learner classes.
Migrant students have the right to services and special programs in education if they have physical or mental disabilities, or problems with learning. Under federal law, students should take language exams in their native language to determine language difficulties. As migrant students change schools, the tests must be carried out immediately. Schools should communicate with parents of the child about the results of exams in their native language. When a migrant farmworker family changes schools, parents should request a copy of the child’s records, so that the new school can provide the same services so that no student is left behind.
Parents have a right to be informed about the academic progress of their children. Schools have the responsibility to communicate with migrant parents in their native language about what is happening to their children in school. Migrant parents need to be updated on school activities, so that they can make decisions about their children.
Parents need to have knowledge about disciplinary rules that apply to their children. Schools need to inform parents about problems related to discipline of their children or accusations against their children—in the language that the parents speak. School officials cannot suspend a student for more than ten days without a hearing before the school’s district board of directors. Parents have the right to an attorney to represent them in meetings with school officials. If police are called for an incident that occurred in school, the student should immediately ask for the presence of his/her parents, given that the police cannot interrogate a student less than 18 years old—but only if the parents want to come.