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06.19.2017 | Today, AFC sent a letter to the New York State Assembly and Senate, urging them to approve a long-term extension of mayoral control as a stand-alone bill that is not tied to other changes in education policy. View our letter [PDF]

guide cover06.16.2017 | AFC has a new guide for court-involved youth and their families! The guide includes a basic overview of the education rights of young people ages 7 to 21 in New York City who are or were involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system. It includes information about the education rights of youth in community and court-ordered settings (such as juvenile detention, juvenile placement, or Rikers Island). It also has information to help students transition back to school and find a school that meets the student’s needs. 

Read the guide [PDF]

June 2017 | Every student in New York City has the right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status. Following recent immigration-related activities by the federal government, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) issued several letters to families reiterating this commitment. The DOE has also provided additional guidance for principals on responding to any requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for access to schools or student records. 

Families and school staff should know that: 

  • School staff cannot ask students or parents about immigration status. Even if a student or his/her parents are undocumented, the student still has the right to receive all school services, including special education supports and services. 
     
  • ICE officers are not permitted to enter schools, except when absolutely required by law (they must have a judicial warrant in all but rare emergency circumstances). If an ICE officer goes to a school for immigration enforcement purposes, he/she must wait outside of the building while the principal consults with DOE lawyers. 
     
  • The DOE will not release information from student records to immigration officers unless absolutely required by law. Undocumented parents and students have all the same rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as do other families. 
     
  • Families should update school records (the "Blue Card") to ensure that there is up-to-date contact information on file for trusted adults who can pick up a child from school, in the event that the primary parent/guardian is detained or deported.
     

It also is important to note that federal policy [PDF] currently limits immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, which include schools, hospitals, and places of worship.

Translations of the DOE’s letter and the complete guidance document, along with additional resources on immigration enforcement, are available at http://schools.nyc.gov/SupportingAllStudents/.

Other Helpful Resources

State Guidance

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia recently released new guidance reminding school districts of their duty to uphold the rights of immigrant students as well as guidance on combatting harassment and discrimination. These documents have been translated into 20 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, French, Fulani, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Karen, Khmer, Nepali, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, and Wolof). 

AFC Publications

  • AFC’s Know Your Rights guidebook provides information on the rights of immigrant students and families in the New York City public schools; it’s available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu [PDF]. See pages 20-21 of the guide for a list of organizations which provide free or low-cost immigration assistance. Some of these organizations are conducting free legal clinics around the city; contact them directly for more information.
     
  • Advocates for Children also has a fact sheet on bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on race, national origin, immigration status, or religion. The fact sheet, which explains DOE policy and what parents can do if their children experience bullying or discrimination,  is available in  ArabicBengaliChineseEnglishFrenchHaitian CreoleRussianSpanish, and Urdu [PDF].

  • In May 2017, Advocates for Children, the Education Trust–New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families released a policy report, Safe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students, which provides a roadmap for steps that New York State and district leaders should take to ensure that immigrant students and their families feel safe and supported by public schools.

Immigration-Related Resources from Other Organizations

  • The Legal Aid Society has created a fact sheet explaining recent executive orders on immigration, as well as two fact sheets with information on advance planning in case of parental detention, deportation, or other immigration-related emergency. These fact sheets are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.

  • Long Island Wins also provides an explanation of how a non-citizen parent can designate a close relative or friend to make school and limited health care decisions for their children (called "Designation of a Person in Parental Relation").

  • The New York Immigration Coalition has compiled a short list of tips for educators and school staff on supporting undocumented students and families, a Know Your Rights Community Toolkit (available in Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, and Spanish), and a list of organizations [PDF] serving immigrant communities in each of the five boroughs.

  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, and the national teachers' unions recently presented a webinar on the educational rights of immigrant children in the United States. The slide deck, which includes links to additional resources, is available in both English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF].

  • To learn more about Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 case in which the Supreme Court held that all children in the United States have the right to attend school regardless of immigration status, see the American Immigration Council's fact sheet.

  • The New York City Council has a webpage with resources for the City’s immigrant communities.

05.25.2017 | Today AFC is testifying before the New York City Council about the Fiscal Year 2018 city budget proposal. We urge the Administration and City Council to increase funding for DOE social workers for students living in homeless shelters, Restorative Practices and other alternatives to school suspensions, and school accessibility. View testimony [PDF]

05.17.2017 | As the families of more than 190,000 immigrant students across New York State wrestle with the current climate of fear and uncertainty, a new report finds major inconsistencies in how New York’s school districts are responding and the extent to which they are rising to the challenge of protecting and supporting the immigrant students and families they are charged to serve.  

The report, Safe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students  [PDF] — released today by The Education Trust–New York, Advocates for Children of New York, the New York Immigration Coalition and The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. — finds that while the New York State Education Department (SED) and the Attorney General’s Office, as well as several individual school districts, have taken a number of important steps, there is much more to do. 

Based on a review of documents from the 25 school districts that together enroll 80 percent of the state’s immigrant students, Safe Havens spotlights positive practices and troubling trends and highlights four critical areas where change is needed:

  • Welcoming all students regardless of immigration status or national origin. 
  • Collection and handling of personal information. 
  • Responding to federal immigration officials. 
  • Supporting students and families when a parent, family member, or guardian is at risk of deportation or has been deported. 

Drawing on the experiences of immigrant community-based organizations, advocates, and service providers, the report includes a set of recommendations for stronger supports at the state, school district and school levels. The report’s recommendations include that SED: assist school districts to provide greater support for immigrant students to ensure their long-term success; reiterate that questions about national origin should not be asked during the student registration process; encourage school districts to adopt — and in some cases, strengthen — their protocols for how to respond to any request for access by ICE; and reinforce the importance of providing social-emotional support. 

“The recommendations in Safe Havens provide a clear roadmap for steps that New York State and district leaders should take to ensure that immigrant students and their families feel safe and supported by public schools,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “We appreciate New York State’s and New York City’s efforts to date and believe that the recommendations in the report will assist school districts across New York in meeting the ongoing concerns of immigrant families.”

Read the report [PDF]

04.24.2017 | In response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the City will expand pre-K to three-year-old children starting with District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, released the following statement: 

“Having achieved universal pre-K access for four-year-old children, the City is now forging ahead with a plan to help younger children get a high-quality early childhood education.  This expansion will have a significant impact in providing children with the foundational skills needed for school success. We commend the Mayor for taking another important step toward narrowing the achievement gap.”

View statement as a PDF

03.21.2017 | Today AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education on the fiscal year 2018 Preliminary Budget. We urge the Administration to include increased funding for DOE social workers for students living in homeless shelters. In addition, we request that the budget include additional resources to expand restorative practices and pilot a mental health support continuum in 20 high-needs schools. View our testimony [PDF]

02.14.2017 | Today, AFC is testifying at the New York State Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2017-18 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget proposal, urging legislators to invest in education initiatives such as improved access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities and English Language Learners, the development of performance-based assessments, positive approaches to discipline, and prekindergarten. View our testimony [PDF]

02.10.2017 | The following is a statement by Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, on today’s release of New York Graduation Rates for the Class of 2016: 

We are alarmed by the precipitous drop in English Language Learner (ELL) graduation rates and the sharp increase in ELL drop-out rates for the Class of 2016 in New York City. Only 30.8 percent of New York City ELLs graduated by August 2016 as compared to 40.5 percent of ELLs in 2015, representing a drop of more than 9.7 percentage points. Equally troubling, the drop-out rate for ELLs in New York City has grown 5.5 percentage points, from 21.5 percent to 27.0 percent over the past year. The new data shows that both New York City and New York State urgently need to double down on efforts to improve instruction for ELLs so that they can achieve their potential and graduate with a high school diploma. The decline in ELL graduation rates in New York City is particularly concerning given the fact that the New York City Department of Education has been under a New York State Education Department-imposed Corrective Action Plan for several years now as a result of the City's failure to serve ELLs appropriately. While we very much appreciate recent statements by state and city leaders indicating that immigrant students and ELLs are welcome in New York’s classrooms, they need to do a better job at both levels of government of providing for equitable access to instruction and services that will set these students up for academic success.

We also remain concerned about the sizeable gap between the graduation rates of students with disabilities and their general education peers, with 44.8 percent of students with disabilities in New York City’s Class of 2016 graduating by August as compared to 78.5 percent of their general education peers. Similarly, the statewide graduation gap also remains wide, with only 54.9 percent of students with disabilities graduating in 2016, as compared to 86.3 percent of their general education peers. Although these gaps have narrowed slightly over the past year, both New York State and New York City must step up their game to provide students with disabilities with the supports that they need in order to graduate from high school.

View statement as a PDF

02.08.2017 | Yesterday, Betsy DeVos was sworn in as the new U.S. Secretary of Education. In the months ahead, we expect to see changes in the implementation and enforcement of federal education laws, as well as shifts in funding priorities that may have serious implications for the low-income students and families we serve. We at Advocates for Children of New York remain dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the quality education they deserve, no matter where they come from, how little money they have, or how much support they need. Earlier today, we sent a letter to Secretary DeVos, emphasizing the importance of the federal government’s role in ensuring that all students are safe and supported at school and urging her to prioritize strengthening public education for children at risk of academic failure or discrimination. Read a copy of our letter [PDF].

At AFC, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us as we continue the fight for opportunity and equity in education so that all children may realize their potential. With your support, we’ll be ready to meet whatever challenges lie ahead.

No matter what happens in Washington, we will always be steadfast in our commitment to protecting the rights of all students.