The ACLU of New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against 12 school districts throughout the state, spanning from Camden County in the south to Sussex County at the state’s northern edge and scattered throughout 10 counties.
According to a press release, these school districts all require forms of state-issued identification that require Social Security numbers or valid immigration status as a condition for students to enroll in school, a requirement that New Jersey law clearly forbids.
The exclusionary policies are particularly disturbing in light of the fear of recent immigration policies in immigrant communities, as well as the number of schools which have appeared on previous ACLU-NJ audits of discriminatory policies.
“New Jersey’s state Constitution calls for free public education, and that applies to every single child – no exceptions. In a state where one in five residents is foreign-born, at a time when our president has made the exclusion of immigrants a key part of his policy agenda, it’s more important than ever for every school district in New Jersey to meet its obligations, both to New Jersey’s families and to the Constitution,” ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Elyla Huertas, stated in the press release.
The 12 districts are:
- Northern Valley Regional High School District (Bergen County)
- Bellmawr School District (Camden County)
- Sterling Regional High School District (Camden County)
- Winslow Township School District (Camden County)
- East Orange Community Charter School (Essex County)
- West New York School District (Hudson County)
- Sea Girt School District (Monmouth County)
- Harding Township School District (Morris County)
- Watchung Hills Regional High School District (Somerset County)
- Montague School District (Sussex County)
- Cranford School District (Union County)
- Allamuchy School District (Warren County)
State statutes, the New Jersey Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, through a case law settled since 1982, have forbidden all school districts from denying education to public school students based on their immigration status or the status of their parents.
The ACLU-NJ sued only the 12 districts with the most restrictive policies, but several others impose improper requirements that hinder enrollment by immigrant parents.
“Together, these policies add up to a quiet, daily injustice that allows discrimination to metastasize and that tells families, incorrectly and unconstitutionally, that they can’t access the fundamental rights they’re entitled to. Public schools exist to educate all of a community’s children. The stakes are too high to allow these unlawful and discriminatory policies to continue, especially here, especially now,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha, is quoted saying in the press release.
In 2008 and 2014, the ACLU-NJ conducted audits of the state’s more than 560 school districts to identify problematic enrollment requirements.
Five of the districts sued today also appeared on the 2014 list of offenders and two of those districts were identified as having discriminatory policies both in 2008 and in 2014.