School Enrollment Q&A from CT Child Advocate, Sarah Healy Eagan, JD

Readers, given the start of the school year and recently raised questions about children's right to school enrollment, Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is re-circulating this Q and A. Please note that all students living in a town, whether a resident, homeless, or undocumented, have the right to school enrollment, and that families may not be asked for information that places a chilling effect on the right of the student to attend school. Please see below for more information: Q. My 7 year old daughter and I just moved into an apartment in a new town and she is so excited to start school. However

it’s been a long time since we have had a permanent home, and I do not have all of the papers that we need so that I can enroll my daughter in her neighborhood school. I can’t find her birth certificate or her social security card, and it may take weeks to replace them! We were homeless for a long time and moved from a shelter to live with a relative. Now we want to make sure we can make a home that lasts, but I am a bit overwhelmed trying to get us settled and I need for my daughter to be able to start school. What should we do? A. Congratulations on your new home and your fresh start! I hope your daughter loves school! Please know that your daughter has a legal right to enroll in school, and that you do not need her birth certificate or her social security card or a pass port or any other specific legal document to allow her to start school. Sometimes districts may ask for these documents so that they can ensure a child meets the residency and age requirements for school, but also because districts need to collect certain information on enrolled students for other reporting reasons. But I want you to know that your child can start school even without these papers, and while districts can certainly request such information, enrollment processes cannot require production of a birth certificate or social security card. A district also may not request documentation about citizenship or immigration status of a student either, because such information is not needed or relevant to determine whether a student lives in a town and is of school-age. The State Department of Education (SDE) has recently released guidance for school districts regarding school enrollment procedures. This guidance is attached. SDE is working hard to ensure that all students are enrolled in school in a timely way. If you have any concerns about your student’s right to enrollment, you can contact the SDE at 860-713-6543 and let them know you need to speak to someone about your concern. The OCA released a short memo on students’ enrollment rights last year, and you can read that here: Papers that you can rely on to show residence include: • A lease agreement or rent receipt (this shows that you and your daughter live in the town); • A utility bill, or insurance, or cell phone bill; • Proof of a government benefit such as disability or SNAP, which shows an address; • A driver’s license or state ID; • Even an affidavit of residence, signed before a notary public, can be used to help enroll a child in school if none of the other documents can be provided. Papers that you can use to show your daughter’s age, include: • Original or photo copy of a birth certificate; Earlier school records; • State ID; • Parent affidavit; or • Physician record or other medical record. Please also know that children who are homeless have legal protection as well, and are entitled to enroll in school immediately even if the child does not have papers normally required for enrollment. Every school district has a homeless student liaison, and you can find more information about the rights of homeless students here on the State Department of Education website: Sincerely, Sarah Healy Eagan, JD Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate 18-20 Trinity Street Hartford, CT 06105

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