ACLU sues seven N.J. school districts over ‘discriminatory’ enrollment requirements

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed suit against seven public school districts, saying they require documents at registration that parents without lawful immigration status can’t obtain.

U.S. courts decided three decades ago that children can to go to school even if they or their parents are in the the country illegally.

So districts asking parents for documents such as drivers’ licenses were violating the law, said Alex Shalom of the ACLU.

“The practical result,” he explained, was that “undocumented parents were unable to register their kids for school.”

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The ACLU started in the Butler School District, where Shalom said it encountered students turned away by the local schools. After settling that case in March, it  followed up with letters to other districts that had bad policies on the books or, in this case, posted on their websites.

The suits filed Monday target the Audubon, Gloucester and Somerdale Park districts in Camden County and Galloway Township in Atlantic County. In Middlesex County, the ACLU sued the North Brunswick, Old Bridge and Perth Amboy districts.

As a pressure tactic, the suits have led to swift resolutions. Superintendent Brian Zychowski  in North Brunswick said he told the ACLU Monday the district is working to comply.

“We care about every kid who is residing in North Brunswick,” he said. “We don’t want to set up any barriers that people would interpret as being contrary to that statement.”

He said the school had required driver’s licenses in the past as a security measure.

At least two more of the defendants, the Galloway and Old Bridge school districts, also resolved their differences with the ACLU Monday.

“One of our district’s core values is diversity, and we would never knowingly deny any child access to our schools,” said Galloway Superintendent Annette Giaquinto. She said the driver’s license requirement remaining on the school’s website was an oversight.

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