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Articles in the Immigrants category

As students go back to school, schools prepare for unaccompanied immigrant children

This post appeared in the National School Boards Association’s Legal Clips. Since this post came out, NSBA has also been featured on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” and on NBC-owned local affiliates:

As reported in the USA Today, the arrival of 50,000 unaccompanied immigrant children since last fall is creating uncertainty among some school districts. “We haven’t started school yet, so we are all just holding our breaths to see what’s going to come on the first day of school,” said Caroline Woodason, assistant director of school support for Dalton Public Schools in Georgia. Georgia received more than 1,100 unaccompanied minors this year, as of July 7, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Under federal law, all children are entitled to a free public education, regardless of their immigration status. Public schools in states such as Florida, Texas and Georgia know the unaccompanied minors are already in their states, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. What they don’t know is how many will end up enrolling in their schools.

Last school year, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland enrolled 107 unaccompanied minors and has “no expectations” about how many could enroll this school year, said school district spokesman Dana Tofig. Maryland saw more than 2,200 unaccompanied minors arrive this year, as of July 7, according to the ORR data.

“We don’t know the educational background (of the students), if they’ve even been to school, the language issue and operational issues that could raise costs beyond those raised initially through state funding,” said Francisco Negrón, General Counsel for the National School Boards Association.

The Department of Education did not provide USA TODAY Network with specifics on guidance to school districts. The agency has a team to take “inquiries received from the field” and identify resources for school districts, according to an e-mail from Dorie Nolt, DOE press secretary.

School districts receive Title III funding under the No Child Left Behind Act for students with limited English proficiency. States can set aside up to 15% for districts that experience a “significant increase” in the number of immigrant students. Texas sets aside 6% of its Title III funding, or $5.9 million, said DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. New York sets aside 10.5% or $5.2 million and California sets aside 5% or $8 million, reports Education Week. But it’s unclear if the current school district budgets are enough.

Miami-Dade County School District requested additional federal funding last week to support what it expects to be a flood of new students. Miami is home to the country’s largest Honduran population, and in the last three months of the school year, the district enrolled 300 children from Honduras, said superintendent Alberto Carvalho. The district has plenty of English-as-second-language teachers, as well as relationships with local social services. But “there’s an unknown factor” of how new students will impact the district financially, Carvalho said. Miami-Dade estimates it spends an additional $1,959 in local funds on immigrant children, Carvalho said in a July 30 letter to Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In addition to health screenings, students need social and psychological services because of the “dramatic conditions they left behind of violence or gang violence or poverty, coupled with what is often a traumatic experience during their journey,” Carvalho said.


Using Title III funds, Dalton Public Schools in Georgia set up what it calls a “Newcomer Academy” this year when it saw that about 30 students needed English training. Last year, the district received $200,000 in Title III funding for its 1,800 English language learners, about a quarter of the overall student population, Woodason said.

Whitfield County Schools, also in Georgia, set up a similar academy over the summer. Last school year, the district enrolled 13 unaccompanied immigrant children from Guatemala and El Salvador. Most don’t speak Spanish but their native Mayan dialects, said Eric Beaver, spokeswoman for the school district, in an e-mail.

Source:  USA Today, 8/6/14, By Jolie Lee

[Editor’s Note:  In June 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article from The Star-Ledger, which reported that the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey had filed lawsuits against seven New Jersey school districts, alleging that the districts are discriminating against families on the basis of their immigration status. The suits charge that the districts are requiring government-issued identification from parents before they will enroll their children.

In February 2014, Legal Clips reported on the announcement by the Southern Poverty Law Center that it had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice asking the department to conduct an investigation into two school districts in North Carolina, claiming that the districts discriminated against an immigrant child by denying, delaying, or discouraging enrollment. The complaint describes how “unaccompanied” immigrant children – who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian and are placed in the care of a sponsor, such as a family member – were turned away from the schoolhouse door because of their limited English proficiency, age, or national origin.]

Alexis Rice|August 11th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Immigrants|Tags: , |

Resources help school districts address undocumented children

School districts may feel significant impacts in the coming year resulting from the influx of Central American children to our country and schools. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and its Council of School Attorneys (COSA) along with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) can all help.

In addition to the many legal resources on immigration issues available to COSA members, COSA will be offering a webinar August 13, 2014 at 1-2:15 p.m. EDT: “Immigration Issues and Public School Attendance: Registering and Serving Undocumented Students and Employer Compliance.”

In this webinar, experienced school attorney Wesley E. Johnson and immigration attorney Marcos Gemoets, who has represented immigration clients throughout Texas and the United States, including unaccompanied minors from Central and Latin America, will provide a checklist of immigration-related issues that may be raised in your district this school year. During the presentation, Johnson and Gemoets will cover issues such as undocumented students’ rights, employer requirements, and how to prepare for enforcement activity by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The presenters also will provide a “what to do if” resource for school administrators featuring several immigration-related scenarios. Registration is now open.

In light of the new federal guidance issued with regard to the recent influx of undocumented, unaccompanied minors NSBA will be re-releasing its electronic 2009 guide entitled “Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children (2009).”

The guide will contain new FAQs designed to help school board members and school administrators navigate the legal concerns raised by this new wave of undocumented immigrant students. The new FAQs will also provide a list to cross agency federal guidelines on this topic in an easy-to-access format.

ED has published new guidelines about which documents schools can and cannot require as proof of residency when children register for school. A “Dear Colleague” letter, published jointly by ED and the U.S. Department of Justice, announced the new guidelines. The new guidelines stipulate that schools can request documents such as leases or phone or utility bills to prove student residency but are prohibited from requiring Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, or original or U.S. birth certificates from parents or children, among other directives outlined in ED’s accompanying fact sheet.

ORR’s School Impact Program provides grants to state and state-alternative programs for activities that help impacted school districts integrate and educate school-age undocumented children.

Margaret Suslick|July 29th, 2014|Categories: School Law, Immigrants, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , , |

Hispanic Caucus breakfast speaker urges school boards to ‘flip the narrative’


School boards have an opportunity to help “flip the narrative” about Hispanic Americans and create a healthier sense of identity for the 12.4 million Hispanic students attending public K-12 schools.

That was the message of journalist Maria Hinojosa at a Sunday breakfast meeting of the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.

“Latino teens have the highest attempted suicide rate in the country,” said Hinojosa, host of National Public Radio’s Latino USA show and winner of four Emmy awards. “Our Latino teenagers are depressed.”

She said she thinks it has a lot to do with a weak sense of identity among Hispanics. She cited comments she’s heard from Latino students at DePaul University, where she teaches. They have asked her, “Can I call myself American?”

Perhaps the cruelest identity issues involve students from “illegal” immigrant families. “There are no illegal people,” Hinojosa said, attributing the quotation to Elie Wiesel.

Such issues can be addressed by school board members because they have a unique role in society as advocates for all children, regardless of ethnicity or background.

She cited a school district that announced that it will address the fact that 65 percent of its Hispanic students drop out. She wondered aloud why the rate had to get that horrific before it got some attention, joking that 50 percent must have been considered okay.

After hearing reports by caucus leaders of projects including a scholarship program for Hispanic students who are admitted to colleges, Hinojosa praised such efforts.

She also urged board members to active as “democracy junkies.” For instance, she said it’s a national disgrace that those detained in immigration facilities have no legal right to challenge the conditions of their detention.

Hinojosa announced that she has received a “green light” from the Public Broadcasting System to host and executive produce a TV show called “America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa” that will tell stories of Latino issues that are “based on data.”

She urged school board members to send her story ideas at


Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Immigrants, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

Author tells of immigrant children’s journey at Best Practices for School Leaders luncheon

Magna Awards 2014

Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Enrique’s Journey told the audience at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon Saturday about her own journey, and the journeys of undocumented and immigrant children.

Nazario chronicled her childhood as the daughter of two immigrants, whose father died when she was 13 and whose mother moved the family back to their native Argentina after his death.

She compared her determination – to do well in college and become a journalist against all odds – to the determination of the children in her book. Those children took perilous, heart-breaking trips thousands of miles from their homes in Central America north to the United States – to be reunited with the mothers who’d left them behind so they could find work and feed their families.

“One in four children in the U.S. is an immigrant or the child of immigrants,” she said. “Those children are in your classrooms and in your districts.”

Nazario suggested ways that schools could help immigrant children, especially the ones who have traveled alone to find their parents and may be scarred emotionally or physically from the journey. In addition to having depression and trauma issues, many have never been to school or only in school for a short time. “They don’t know how to hold a pencil or scissors,” she said.

Their parents may be illiterate, hold several jobs, or live in crowded conditions where the children can’t find quiet places to do their homework.

Newcomer schools, where students are taught bilingually and are eased into school during a transition period can help, she says. Also, these schools help parents acclimate and understand their roles in helping their students in schools.

More after-school programs for immigrant students and their parents would help, she says. “And pass the Dream Act,” which gives citizenship to children of undocumented parents, she said. “They didn’t break the law. They should have a pathway to legalization.”

Also at the luncheon, the 2014 Magna Award winning districts were honored. For more information about the Magna winners and the awards program to The Magna Awards are sponsored Sodexo.

Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: NSBA Publications, Immigrants, Food Service, NSBA Recognition Programs, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

Common Core poses opportunities, challenges for English Language Learners

Imagine you’re a student being asked to demonstrate a level of knowledge and critical thinking never before demanded of the vast majority of students in the United States. That is what assessments for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are asking — or will soon ask — students to do in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Now imagine you’re being asked to demonstrate this high level of learning and cognitive ability in a language different from the one you grew up with at home.  If you were, say, a native English speaker and were asked to do this in Europe or Latin America, would your high school French or Spanish suffice?

That’s a little what the growing population English language learners in this country is being ask to do.  And whether these students succeed or not is critical to our nation’s future.

“English language learners represent the future majority of our student population,” said Rose Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.  (TESOL).  “So whether you come from a district where English language learners are already in large numbers, or from a district where their numbers are growing rapidly, you are directly affected.”

Aronson and Patte Barth, director of NBA’s Center for Public Education, spoke last week at a webinar, now archived, called The Common Core State Standards and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success, which was sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

On the “opportunities” side, the CCSS sets the expectation that all students — including English Language Learners — will meet rigorous performance standards. And, because of this, Aronson said, “it has the potential to raise academic achievement of ELLs and close the achievement gap.”

In addition, “CCSS and NGSS [the Next Generation Science Standards] give us an opportunity to reassess our assumptions, instructional approaches, and polices related to the education of ELLs” and to strengthen the role of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Among the biggest challenges is ensuring that ELLs “acquire and use the academic language necessary to access the rigorous content demanded by the CCSS,” Aronson said. And there is the challenge of ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach in the academic language that CCSS requires.

School boards have a big role to play regarding CCSS, Barth said. They can help all students succeed in this initiative by setting clear and high expectations, creating the conditions for success, holding the system accountable, creating the public will to success, and learning as a board team about CCSS and what it requires.

Lawrence Hardy|January 14th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized, Curriculum, Center for Public Education, Diversity, Immigrants, Student Achievement, Assessment, 21st Century Skills, Common Core State Standards|Tags: , , , , |

Educators must engage minority male students, CUBE speaker says

When urban school leaders ask themselves why young men of color are not doing well in their schools, they may be asking the wrong question.

The real question may be why school leaders—on their watch— are allowing so many of these students to struggle in their schools.

That was the provocative beginning of the two-hour opening session of the 45th annual conference of the Council of Urban Board of Education (CUBE), which opened Thursday in Atlanta.

As she began talking of the role of school leaders in helping these students, speaker Sonya Gunnings–Moton, an assistant dean at Michigan State University’s College of Education, hammered home a series of damning facts regarding the school experience of many African-American and Latino students.

Academic performance is lower on average for minority male students compared to their white peers, she said. These students are more likely to end up suspended or expelled, assigned to a special education program, or enrolled in an under-resourced school.

They also are less likely to be enrolled in gifted and talented programs.

This reality is disturbing enough to fuel action, Gunnings-Moton said. But, in her mind, she added, there was a more-compelling reason for her audience to return home from the conference and address the issue.

“It’s happening under our watch … this is not a history lesson,” she argued. “These are our realities today—the realities with our children.”

“One of the things I want you to be very clear about … we are responsible. This is our responsibility.”

So where to begin? Start with the research that shows that many minority male students don’t drop out of school because of poor academics, as is commonly believed, Gunnings -Moton said.

According to research, “what large populations of [these students] really did not believe, did not internalize, was the belief that going to school and being educated was going to make a difference in the outcome of their lives,” she told urban school leaders

Society, she added, has sent these students a consistent message that they will not succeed in school—and they have responded by deciding there is no need to make the attempt.

“Now that has profound implications around what we may need to think about … what it means to engage African-American males in education.”

To address this reality, urban school leaders need to go beyond the focus on instructional and management issues that has been the centerpiece of school reform efforts for the past decade, she said. Now it’s time for educators to focus on the very real social and emotional needs of young urban male students.

Efforts are needed to engage young male students in school, convince them they can succeed academically, and provide more supports to help them with the very real emotional and social issues that these students must address in a poor urban community.

Winning support to put scarce resources into such an effort can be a challenge, Gunnings-Moton agreed, but she said school leaders can argue that such efforts serve the needs of all students—and shouldn’t be looked at as an intervention solely for minority male students.

“You have a tremendous amount of data that all students who receive socio-emotional support and prevention services achieve better academically, regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” she said. “It makes sense for all students.”

Del Stover|October 5th, 2012|Categories: Governance, High Schools, Immigrants, School Reform, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , |

Federal court overrules ID checks on immigrant students

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a portion of Alabama’s strict immigration law that required public schools to check the legal status of students.

In a friend-of-the-court brief late last year, NSBA, the National Education Association, and the Alabama Education Association said the law was trying to use “fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants from the state.”

The law had put public schools in a difficult position –on one hand, required by federal law to serve all children in the state regardless of their immigration status; on the other, being thrust to the front lines of a highly partisan battle over illegal immigration.

NSBA released a guide for educators last year, “Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children,” that discusses legal questions related to undocumented students that are commonly asked by school officials.

The main federal law is 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe held that undocumented students have a constitutional right to attend public elementary and secondary school for free, although there are other conflicted lower court rulings and many issues that the Plyler decision did not address, according to the guide.

Nevertheless, “The law of the land still requires that schools provide an education for undocumented students,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

Numerous states have debated the fates of undocumented students in recent years, and the issue has reemerged with the Obama administration’s recent announcement that they will defer the deportations of thousands of young adults who came to the United States as children.

Read a legal analysis of the decision in Legal Clips.








Lawrence Hardy|August 22nd, 2012|Categories: School Law, Diversity, Immigrants, Board governance, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: School Law, Diversity, Immigrants, Assessment, American School Board Journal, School Board News, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Beware the blog that begins, “If you want my opinion….” because chances are you’re going to get it, whether you want to our not.

So, as I was saying, if you want my opinion (promise I’ll keep this short) on the whole Newt-Gingrich-wants-poor-kids-to-work-as-school-janitors thing, it’s not the idea itself that bothers me, it’s the attitudes that seem to support it.

That is, I could imagine a small charter-type school in a disadvantaged neighborhood where the students were charged with taking care of the building as  part of a team-building, esprit-de-corps type activity.

But to suggest, as the Republican presidential candidate did, that poor children as a group lack any kind of working role models — well, that to me is a bit much. Gingrich obviously hasn’t spent much time in a diverse American high school with lots of poor immigrants, where oftentimes the problem isn’t students not working, but working so much outside of school to help support stressed families that they have precious little chance of passing their courses.

For the record, here’s some of what Gingrich said, according to the New York Times’ Politics blog, which, in turn, quoted Politico:

You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

Among the many who criticized the candidate was Charles Blow, of the Times, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Who in their right mind would lay off janitors and replace them with disadvantaged children — who should be in school, and not cleaning schools,” Weingarten said. “And who would start backtracking on laws designed to halt the exploitation of children?”

Others, including Peter Meyer of the Fordham Foundation, said Gingrich was on the right track.

“It was a bit odd to to see Charles Blow (of the New York Times) take out after Newt Gingrich for saying that ‘really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,’’’ Meyer said. “I had just returned from an inner city school where teachers and administrators and parents were saying the same things as Gingrich.  In fact, I’ve been hearing these complaints from teachers – and business leaders – for years.  Teaching children the ‘habits of working’ is a growing part of the school reform movement.”

Yes, there was other news this week. For starters, check out Joann Jacobs’s discussion of how schools’ emphasis on reading and math tests could be crowding out other subjects.

Lawrence Hardy|December 10th, 2011|Categories: Curriculum, Week in Blogs, Urban Schools, Immigrants, School Board News|Tags: , |

NA webinar: Population shifts dramatically impact schools

In a recent webinar for National Affiliates, a leading researcher showed how school districts can use the 2010 U.S. Census data to project enrollment trends in their areas.

Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the office of employment and training for the Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet, showed how the data could be used to identify the ages of different areas and how those demographics could impact school enrollments.

Nationally, the data showed an uptick in the nation’s population in the past decade, particularly among Hispanic and Asian residents, but regional differences varied widely.

For instance, when looking at population trends through a map of the United States, Michigan was the only state to lose population from 2000 to 2010. Many southern and southwestern states saw population increases of 5 to 15 percent or more.

But when the data was analyzed by looking at counties, it was clear that many areas were losing residents, even in the states with increasing populations. Many of those areas were rural.

Crouch used demographic data to show how some counties have younger populations—for instance, the Seattle area has had a boom in residents age 25 to 34 who haven’t yet had children. In other areas, there are growing numbers of young workers who are having children, and race and ethnicity made a big difference in the number of children getting ready to start school.

“All the growth that’s really going on in this country is the Hispanic population,” Crouch noted. Many Hispanics tend to have larger families; and while the Asian population is also increasing at significant rates, Asians tend to have fewer children, he said.

The Asian population, for instance, tends to be more concentrated in areas on East and West Coast, while the Hispanic population is more widespread. And while there was still a great concentration of Hispanics in California and the Southwest, some are now moving into other regions, particularly the South.

In addition, more children are being identified as being of two or more races, he added. Demographic data showed that the vast majority of residents identified as two or more races was concentrated in young children and teenagers categories.

The webinar will be archived for National Affiliates at Crouch will also be presenting at NSBA’s 72nd Annual Conference, held April 21 to 23, 2012, in Boston.

A searchable analysis of the county-by-county Census data is available at the New York Times website.


Joetta Sack-Min|August 5th, 2011|Categories: Rural Schools, Immigrants, School Board News|Tags: , |
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