Skip to content
May 10th, 2011
Grijalva Hails Federal Guidance Reminding Schools of Existing Legal Right to Public Education Regardless of Documentation Status

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today praised the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) for releasing a national guidance reminding schools of the existing Constitutional requirement to educate all children equally, regardless of their immigrant documentation status. The guidance, released May 6, affirms state and local educators’ need to comply with the Supreme Court Plyler v. Doe ruling of 1982, which found that a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child.

As the guidance says, both departments “have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law.”

The Plyler ruling, quoted in the guidance, found in part: “By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.” The ruling has been enforced by DOJ and DOE officials since it was handed down.

“We all have equal protection and a humane education system in this country, and local schools should get the assistance they need to continue that tradition,” Grijalva said. “This guidance is a timely reminder that we don’t turn children away from their classrooms in the United States. An educated population is the best asset any country can have, and we discriminate in public schools – or anywhere else – only at our own expense. Plyler was a historic case. We shouldn’t toss that history aside.”

The guidance states that no school district may:
• ask about a child’s citizenship or immigration status to establish residency within the district
• deny a homeless child, including an undocumented homeless child, enrollment because she or he cannot provide the required documents to establish residency

The guidance points out that a school district may not prevent a child from enrolling in school because:
• a child has a foreign birth certificate
• a child or parent chooses not to provide the child’s social security number
• a child or parent chooses not to provide the child’s race or ethnicity

For more information, visit the DOJ equal rights enforcement page at and the DOE equal rights page at

Back To News