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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/.

Additional 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.

Information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

On September 5, 2017, the White House announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be ending as of March 5, 2018. For more information, see:

  • The Legal Aid Society's DACA fact sheet, available in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF];
  • The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs' DACA webpage, http://nyc.gov/DACA, for a fact sheet available in 10 languages and links to City resources for DACA recipients;
  • The New York Immigration Coalition's referral guide for individuals seeking DACA renewal assistance; and
  • The website www.weareheretostay.org for general information and resources.

Other Immigration-Related Resources

  • 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 Arabic, Chinese, English, French, 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.

09.06.2017 |  Tomorrow starts a new school year for most of the 1.1 million students in New York City's public schools. Students will take buses, cars, trains, and ferries to over 1,700 schools scattered throughout the five boroughs. They'll come from homes that speak more than 100 different languages, practice a wide variety of religions, and span the entire spectrum from extreme poverty to enormous wealth. Though their families may have little in common, they will all participate in this annual ritual — a ritual that unites our city, perhaps as much as anything else.

No matter where we're from, how we worship, or what else we believe, families all share a commitment to our children and to education as essential to preparing them to live full and productive lives. We have a collective faith in education's power to transform — not just individual children, but society itself. If we are ever going to overcome the powerful plagues of poverty, racism, and injustice, we know that education is our best hope. As Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." 

That is why it is so crucial that ALL children have the opportunity for an excellent education, and why Advocates for Children of New York is 100% committed to toppling barriers that stand in their way. During the school year that starts tomorrow, we will advocate for families in more than 7,000 cases, ranging from a student with a disability who is reading three years behind grade level because she didn't get the special education services she needs, to a parent who cannot communicate with her child's teacher because she can't get an interpreter, to a student who is being excluded from school because he was denied necessary mental health support. We will provide hundreds of "know your rights" workshops in Head Start centers, shelters, schools, and community-based organizations throughout the city's diverse neighborhoods. And we will fight for policies to ensure access to quality education for students who are often forgotten, including students who are homeless, undocumented, in foster care, or court-involved. 

As we embark upon another school year, we are proud to partner with you and so many others in service of New York City's families. Together, we can work towards a better world for each and every child. 

Sincerely,
Kim Sweet signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director

08.24.2017 | The first day of school is Thursday, September 7! In preparation, we've updated our back-to-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which covers concerns that typically come up at this time of year, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. 

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call AFC’s Education Helpline: (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm.

08.24.2017 |  AFC submitted comments on SUNY’s proposed regulations regarding charter school teacher certification. While we believe there is important work to be done across the State to strengthen teacher certification pathways, address shortages of qualified teachers in certain areas, and ensure there is an excellent teacher in every classroom, we are concerned that the proposed regulations would run counter to these goals and would violate state law. View comments [PDF]

08.22.2017 | In response to the release of the third through eighth grade English Language Arts (ELA) and Math test scores, Kim Sweet, Executive Director, issued the following statement:

“While we are pleased to see the test scores move in the right direction for New York City students overall, we are concerned about the persistent gaps that exist for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.  Teaching students to read is one of the most fundamental tasks of schools.  With only 5.6% of English Language Learners and 10.7% of students with disabilities scoring proficiently in reading, the City must do more to support these students and ensure that they receive high-quality, evidence-based instruction that targets their individual needs.”

View statement as a PDF

cover of guide07.27.2017 | AFC has a new guide on the rights of students with disabilities facing discipline! Students with disabilities have special rights and protections when they are suspended from school or removed from class, and one of those rights is a meeting called a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR). This comprehensive guide explains what happens at an MDR, how to prepare for the meeting, what happens afterwards, and what parents can do if they disagree with the school’s decision.  

Read the guide [PDF]





page 1 of data brief07.24.2017 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a data brief analyzing city and state data showing that English Language Learners (ELLs) are under-represented in career and technical education (CTE) programs at New York City high schools. Entitled Missed Potential: English Language Learners Under-Represented in NYC Career and Technical Education Programs, the brief examines ELL enrollment at schools that offer CTE, as well as their participation and completion rates in the CTE programs at those schools.

The paper offers a list of recommended steps the New York City Department of Education can take to begin to address barriers for ELLs, including resolving recruitment and enrollment issues, offering extra training for CTE instructors in serving ELLs, and providing classroom supports in CTE schools—such as bilingual CTE classes and translation and interpretation services. 

Read the data brief [PDF]
Read the press release [PDF]

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 (available in English and Spanish) 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 English guide [PDF]
Read the Spanish guide [PDF]

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]