The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has created a website to help families of U.S., transnational, immigrant, migrant, and refugee students continue their education at their local schools.
The website is in addition other SDCOE efforts to provide recourse and guidance to support student populations who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure equity and access for all students during the crisis and beyond.
"It's imperative that all students have the opportunity and access to be successful in their education, and that includes our most vulnerable students who have been displaced due to economic reasons or who may be living in fear of separation from their family while trying to figure out distance learning during a pandemic," said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold.
The U.S. and California constitutions affirm that all students have a right to equal access to a free public education, regardless of their citizenship status or that of their parents. All students have a right to attend safe, secure, and peaceful schools, free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, violence, and intimidation.
"It's our job to make sure that all students enrolled in our schools can safely obtain and maintain their access to an education, regardless of their citizenship status," noted San Diego County Board of Education President Alicia Muñoz.
In the 2018-19 school year, officials in Baja California estimated that more than 51,000 students from the U.S. were registered in public elementary schools, according to El Imparcial. This number undoubtedly has grown as job losses in the United States have pushed American citizens, transnational, and immigrant populations into areas with a lower cost of living, including Mexico. Fortunately, Baja California and the Mexican constitution also guarantee the right of public schooling to U.S. born students and other immigrants arriving into Mexico from other countries.
"We know this time during COVID-19 has been particularly difficult for vulnerable transnational, refugee, migrant, and other immigrant students and families who are missing a connection to school or who are living in a country that feels foreign to them," Gothold said. "This effort is intended to help educators on both sides of the border to support these students in need. It is imperative that California and Baja California work collaboratively to ensure students receive support."
Accordingly, SDCOE reminds local educational agencies to be especially sensitive to the plight of refugee, immigrant and other transnational students during this crisis. All school districts and charter schools should continue to follow the law and pay particular attention to protecting students and their families from inquiries about their immigration status. Local educational agencies can revisit current state mandates from the California Office of the Attorney General reminding school administrators and educators to:
- Remain flexible and broad in accepting a diversity of documents that families may offer to demonstrate children's age and residency
- Refrain from asking for any information regarding citizenship for matriculation
- Never request social security numbers
- Maintain confidentiality of all student records
- Acquire written consent from parents before releasing student information unless responding to court order or subpoena
- Accept any family's refusal to be included in a school directory
- Establish documentation for family directives or student care should families be separated by immigration enforcement detention or deportation, such a family-authorized Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit or a Petition for Appointment of Temporary Guardian of the Person