Senate Approves Bills to Address ACLU Concerns Regarding School Enrollment Practices

Ruiz NJBOE photo 4

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz which would address concerns brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union about potentially discriminatory enrollment practices in some New Jersey schools was approved by the Senate today.

“No child should be turned away from a New Jersey school due to their immigration status or of their parent or guardian,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We want to be sure that school districts are not going beyond requesting the documentation necessary to register new students. This legislation will clarify that the protections granted to students by current law extends to students in the enrollment process.”

One bill, S-2980, would prohibit school districts from using whether or not the Motor Vehicle Commission had the name and address of the student’s parent or guardian on file as a condition of enrollment.

A second bill, S-2982, would clarify that a child cannot be excluded from public school based on their immigration status or their membership in a protected category under the “Law Against Discrimination.”

The Department of Education has set standards to ensure equal access to education for members of protected categories but they do not specify whether or not they apply to children in the enrollment process. The bill would clarify that children seeking enrollment in a district are protected under the “Law Against Discrimination.”

On July 26, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued 12 school districts with discriminatory enrollment practices. The lawsuit alleges that the districts have policies that require parents or guardians to provide state-issued identification when enrolling their child, which they claim violates the US Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution.

Protected categories under the Law Against Discrimination include: race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy or breastfeeding, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical heredity cellular or blood trait of any individual, liability for service in the Armed Forces, and nationality.

The bills were released from the full Senate by votes of 26-10 and 34-0, respectively.