The Yuma Union High School District apparently has an unlawful enrollment requirement that is shutting out eligible students, particularly children of migrant agricultural workers, homeless youth and those without lawful immigration status, the American Civil Rights Union of Arizona claimed in a letter to district leaders.
According to the ACLU, administrators at the San Luis High School require a parent or guardian provide a state-issued ID to enroll a student.
Arizona only issues state IDs to non-citizens who are lawfully present in the country under federal immigration law, like permanent residents or those on an immigrant visa.
In an April 18 letter to Superintendent Gina Thompson, ACLU legal director Kathleen Brody wrote that the ID policy “chills and prevents student enrollment” is unconstitutional and violates state and federal statutes.
“Even with immigration status, a state-issued ID can be difficult to obtain, such as for those experiencing homelessness,” Brody wrote. “By making a state-issued ID an absolute requirement to enroll a student, San Luis High School is effectively shutting its doors to the most vulnerable student populations.”
There are federal protections for students who are experiencing homelessness or are children of migrant agricultural workers that require schools immediately enroll them even if they can’t provide regular enrollment documents.
The state Department of Education requires parents or guardians provide a document showing their full name and address for enrollment. Acceptable proof includes over 12 different documents, varying from a state-issued ID to a utility bill, pay stub, tribal enrollment card or bank statement.
San Luis High School is also allegedly requiring non-parents who are enrolling a student to be legal guardians, or seeking guardianship through the courts. The ACLU said as long as child and caregiver live in the district, the school should allow the student to enroll.
“Arizona children maintain their fundamental right to a free education, regardless of the relationship between the child and the caregiving adult,” Brody wrote.
San Luis High School serves over 2,600 students, according to the district website.
ACLU spokeswoman Marcela Taracena said the organization heard about the Yuma enrollment policy through parents, but it was unclear how many students and their families have been turned away because they didn’t meet the district’s requirements.
“We didn’t write the letter on behalf of anyone, because we don’t really know how many families this affected, but it clearly shook up enough people up to make some noise about the situation,” Taracena said.
Thompson, the superintendent, said in a statement the district is “working to ensure” its adhering to state law and ADE regulations.
“We received the ACLU’s letter via email on Thursday evening prior to a three-day weekend, but have been in contact with the school district’s attorney, campus administrators and governing board members,” Thompson said. “Student safety and fiscal responsibility are the district’s number one priorities and a significant element of that is strictly following those guidelines set forth by the state.”
ADE spokesman Stefan Swiat said he wasn’t aware of any complaints related to ACLU’s claims.
Note: This story was updated with comments from Superintendent Gina Thompson.