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ACLU Files Lawsuit Against 12 N.J. School Districts Claiming Immigrant Bias

The lawsuit claims the districts violate state law by requiring parents provide forms of state-issued ID in order to enroll their children.

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against 12 N.J. School Districts Claiming Immigrant Bias

ACLU previously sued 13 other N.J. school districts but dropped the suits when the districts agreed to change their policies.

A civil rights group has sued 12 New Jersey school districts over enrollment policies it says discriminate against children whose parents are in the country illegally.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming the 12 districts in question violate state law by requiring forms of state-issued identification that can only be obtained by someone who is a citizen or has a Social Security number to enroll a child, reports NBC News.

“New Jersey’s state Constitution calls for free public education, and that applies to every single child – no exceptions,” said ACLU-NJ staff attorney Elyla Huertas, who filed the lawsuit.

The districts named in the lawsuit include:

  • 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)

Districts Officials Dispute ACLU’s Claims

Several districts named in the lawsuit, including Watchung Hills Regional High School District, have disputed the group’s claims.

“The Watchung Hills Regional School District does not condition entry into our District based upon a student’s or parent’s immigration/visa status or any other discriminatory reason,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett. “We have never denied admission to a student based upon immigration/visa status or based upon the failure of a family to produce a particular form of documentation as proof of residency.”

According to its website, The Northern Valley Regional High School District requires parents provide proof of residency and a New Jersey driver’s license or identification to enroll their children, which “is not possible for immigrants who lack Social Security numbers or a valid immigration status to obtain such identification,” claims the lawsuit.

Superintendent James Santana said in an email that the claims of the lawsuit are “misleading” and that the district complies with all state and federal regulations.

“We are going to vigorously defend ourselves against these baseless charges,” he said.

Santana also added that the district is reviewing all of its web pages to ensure accurate enrollment information is reflected.

While the districts named in the lawsuit have the most restrictive policies, there are several others in the state that also impose improper requirements, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU previously sued 13 other New Jersey school districts in recent years over similar disputes, according to The Washington Post. All of those suits were settled after the districts agreed to change their policies.

About the Author

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Amy Rock is the Campus Safety Web Editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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