Reasserting education as a basic right for all, two measures making clear that school districts should not deny undocumented students or students of protected status access to school were given final legislative approval by the full Assembly on Monday.
It is against federal and state law for school districts to deny a student’s enrollment based on his or her immigration status, or make inquiries of students or parents that may expose their undocumented status.
The first of the two measures (A-4956) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Angela McKnight was approved 56-14-6, and would prohibit school districts from conditioning enrollment on immigration status as assessed by a parent or guardian not having a name or address on file with the Motor Vehicle Commission.
“All children have the right to go to school,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Education is absolutely vital to a child’s development and future success. There’s no reason to deny any child of that for any reason.”
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) filed lawsuits against 12 school districts in New Jersey for policies the organization argued were in violation of the law and State Constitution. As a condition of enrollment, the districts required forms of state-issued identification that could only by obtained by someone with citizenship or a Social Security number.
“Unfortunately, not every school district in New Jersey is abiding by the law in granting free public education for all,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This bill will clarify and reinforce our existing laws and ideals that no child should be prevented from getting an education.”
Lampitt, along with Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Yvonne Lopez, is also the sponsor of legislation (A-5324) clarifying that a district may not exclude a child from school based on any characteristic protected under the Law Against Discrimination, or for their immigration status. The measure was approved 65-4-8.
“Every child in New Jersey is entitled to the same educational opportunities as their entire peer group,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “We have a moral and constitutional obligation to ensure that schools do not exclude or discriminate against children based on their immigration status or any other protected class under the Law Against Discrimination.”
“Education serves as the foundation for everything,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “It is crucial to both our individual development and to our collective success. Denying any child the right to go to school is totally reprehensible and must be treated accordingly.”
Both measures now head to the Governor’s desk.