The ACLU-NJ has released disturbing findings that at least 20% of New Jersey public school districts are illegally requiring Social Security numbers or immigration status as a condition of student enrollment, prompting NJDOE to issue a statement to the press vowing it “will not tolerate continued violation of the law.”

The ACLU-NJ’s findings were based on survey results from approximately 80% of New Jersey’s over 600 public school districts. The survey revealed that 139 school districts required information prohibited by federal and state law as a condition of student registration, while another 48 districts suggested that the provision of prohibited information would help the enrollment process. Some of the offending districts were previously identified during a similar survey the ACLU –NJ conducted in 2006, had agreed to reform their practices, but had not yet done so.

Both federal and state law prohibit proof of legal status for enrollment in public schools, to ensure that no child is denied the knowledge, skills, and values that will allow them to lead productive lives and contribute to society. New Jersey’s regulations specifically prevent school districts from requiring or requesting Social Security numbers and information related to citizenship or immigration/visa status so that undocumented immigrants are not deterred from registering their children for school due to fear of deportation or other consequences.

In response to the ACLU-NJ’s urging that NJDOE remedy the continuing problem of school districts illegally imposing requirements that deter immigrant student enrollment, DOE notified the press that it intends to take the following steps: 1) send letters to the 187 offending districts, directing that illegal practices cease immediately; 2) explore options such as withholding state aid should violations be identified; and 3) develop a system to monitor this requirement.

Over the years, ELC has taken legal action to challenge school districts seeking to impose illegal “residency” requirements to prevent students from enrolling in public school. ELC urges the NJDOE to follow through on the steps outlined above.


For more information on the legal requirements for public school enrollment, see ELC’s publication, “Understanding Public School Residency Requirements.” Students who are turned away from public school based on their immigration or citizenship status or who face improper registration requirements can seek legal assistance by contacting ELC’s intake coordinator at 973-624-1815, ext. 30.

Prepared: September 10, 2008

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240