I participated in a discussion yesterday at the New York Immigration Coalition about the need for schools to prepare to serve the educational needs of the Central American children arriving in New York State. The children have a Constitutional right to an education in the communities in which they live.
It is extremely important that school districts not further traumatize these children fleeing from violence by creating barriers to enrollment. Children illegally kept out of school by districts will inevitably be allowed in, but in the meantime they will not only miss out on class work, they may be stigmatized by other students and socially isolated when they do finally start classes.
I met yesterday with Angelica Infante, the associate commissioner of the New York State Department of Education, and I explained our fears that some Long Island districts may try to keep these children out. I explained to her that we are hearing rumors that districts are using guardianship issues as an obstruction to enrollment.
She was very concerned about this and she said that she wants more information on how schools are behaving towards these children. If anyone has evidence of discrimination against the newly arrived Central American children, please give me a call at 516-489-8330. Make sure that you have contact information for the family of the child who suffered discrimination.
I also spoke with Associate Commissioner Infante on the need for the state to remind school districts of their obligation to educate these children. She asked for information on which districts were most impacted.
I was also happy to hear that the state Education Department has already begun reaching out to impacted school districts to make sure that they are aware of their obligations to educate all children who live in a district without regard to immigration status. The state education folks are working proactively to prevent immigration discrimination.