Public K-12 Schools Must Adopt Policies by July 1 to Protect the Rights of Students Regardless of Immigration Status
Pursuant to recently enacted State Assembly Bill 699 (Educational Equity: Immigration and Citizenship Status), the Office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently published Model Policies for elementary and secondary public schools “to protect students and ensure that, regardless of their immigration status, they may continue to take advantage of the education to which they are entitled, free from intimidation or risk of a loss of access to resources and programs that other students enjoy.” No later than July 1, 2018, all public California K-12 school districts (local educational agencies), including charter schools, must adopt either the Model Policies developed by the Office of the Attorney General or equivalent policies.
AB 699 specifically required the Attorney General to publish, at minimum, Model Policies concerning (1) “Procedures related to requests for access to school grounds for purposes related to immigration enforcement,” (2) “Procedures for local educational agency employees to notify the superintendent or his or her designee, or the principal of the charter school or his or her designee, as applicable, if an individual requests or gains access to school grounds for purposes related to immigration enforcement,” and (3) “Procedures for responding to requests for personal information about pupils or their family members for purposes of immigration enforcement.”
In April 2018, the Attorney General’s Office published “Promoting a Safe and Secure Learning Environment for All: Guidance and Model Policies to Assist California’s K-12 Schools in Responding to Immigration Issues,” which can be found by visiting: https://www.oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/bcj/sanctuary-school-guidance-3-28-18.pdf.
The Attorney General’s Office also published a useful “Quick Reference for School Officials,” which can be found at: https://www.oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/bcj/school-guidance-quick-reference.pdf, and an important “Guide for Students and Families,” which is available in English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and Arabic and can be found by visiting: https://www.oag.ca.gov/bcj.
AB 699 also obligates K-12 public schools to satisfy other requirements. For example, AB 699 (1) makes clear that schools must adopt a policy that prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived immigration status; (2) obligates schools to ensure a process exists for receiving and investigating related complaints based on immigration status; (3) prohibits schools from collecting information or documents regarding the citizenship or immigration status of students or their family members unless required to administer a state or federal program; (4) requires reporting to the school board any requests to gain information or access to a school site by an officer or employee of a law enforcement agency for immigration enforcement purposes; and (5) directs schools to first exhaust parents’ instruction concerning a student’s care in the emergency contact information in the parents’ absence and to avoid contacting Child Protective Service unless the school is unable to arrange for care based on parental instruction. (This last provision does not affect the duty to contact Child Protective Services in the event of suspected child abuse.)
Finally, AB 699 mandates school boards to inform parents regarding their children’s right, regardless of immigration status or religious beliefs, to a free public education, and to include “Know Your Rights” information. The Attorney General’s Office has included model “Know Your Rights” language in Appendix G of its new guidance. The new law also requires school boards to educate students “about the negative impact of bullying other pupils based on their actual or perceived immigration status or their religious beliefs and customs.”
School districts now have less than two months to adopt the Attorney General’s Model Policies or “equivalent” policies. Districts should take immediate steps to review and revise their policies accordingly.
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo has extensive experience advising school districts and charter schools concerning compliance with AB 699 and the rights of undocumented students. For further information, please contact one of the attorneys listed above.