MEDIA RELEASE: New guidelines ensure all students have access to public education, regardless of immigration status

The NC Justice Center praises Superintendent Atkinson for swiftly responding to guidance issued by U.S. Departments of Justice and Education

RALEIGH (May 15, 2014) – Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status—an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education.

On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson moved to ensure that this guidance will be carried out in North Carolina schools by sending a letter to all school districts with a reminder of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.

“School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school,” the letter reads.

“Through these parallel guidance letters, the federal government and the state of North Carolina have sent a strong message that schools must welcome and enroll all children," said Matt Ellinwood, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Education & Law Project. "It affirms the legacy of Brown v. Board and Plyler v. Doe that all children must be given the opportunity to succeed that only education can provide.”

Under the new guidance, a school may not deny enrollment if a parent is unable or unwilling to provide a student’s Social Security number when requested, and must also inform the parent that disclosure of the number is voluntary. The letter also emphasizes that North Carolina students under the age of 21 who have not yet graduated may not be told they are too old or ineligible to enroll due to a lack of credits or English language skills, nor may students be required to take an English proficiency examination as a condition of enrollment.

“Some LEAs [Local Education Agencies] have been denying enrollment to students who do not produce a certified copy of their birth certificate,” the letter reads. Multiple documents are in fact accepted as proof of a student’s age in lieu of the certified birth certificate, including verified school records, state-issued identification, and a passport.

Read the full letter here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Ellinwood,, 919.861.1465; Jeff Shaw,, 503.551.3615 (cell).