“Newsday: AG, N. Babylon district agree on immigrant enrollment”
January 17, 2017
As published by Newsday on January 12, 2017.
North Babylon schools will enact new measures designed to protect the rights of immigrant students trying to enroll, under an agreement reached with the state attorney general.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office began investigating the North Babylon district in August after receiving a complaint that the district had refused to enroll a teenager fleeing violence in El Salvador who had entered the United States illegally.
According to the agreement announced Thursday, the district will undertake several reforms, including retaining an ombudsman to oversee the district’s enrollment policies and developing new enrollment materials and procedures. Staff members involved with student enrollment also will undergo additional training.
“Education lies at the core of our American democracy, and every child — no matter where they were born — deserves the chance to go to school,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “I am pleased that the North Babylon district has agreed to work with our office to ensure that all students are able to enroll and attend school there, regardless of the circumstances under which they arrived here or their immigration status.”
North Babylon Superintendent Glen Eschbach said his district “has always prided itself on providing all students with an equal and enriching educational experience. We are pleased to have partnered with the attorney general’s office to ensure that immigrant students and their families have a clear and supportive path to receiving a sound education.”
The teenager’s attorney, Bryan Johnson of Bay Shore, said the boy, Marlon Velásquez, came to live with his aunt, who resided in the district.
His aunt tried and failed to enroll him in school in the spring and summer of 2016, Johnson has said.
School officials had said the teenager was not eligible to enroll because his mother, who still lived in El Salvador, did not live within the district, according to the attorney general’s office.
Johnson said the district reversed its decision after he complained to Schneiderman’s office and the state education department about what Johnson had contended was the illegal treatment of immigrant minors.
Schneiderman’s office also said Thursday its investigation found that the district had “repeatedly delayed and denied the enrollment.”
Federal and state law dictate that all children, regardless of their immigration status, are entitled to a public school education. The state Department of Education, which also reviewed the case, requires any student seeking enrollment to immediately be enrolled.
“We are pleased our joint review with Attorney General Schneiderman will help ensure that all children receive the education that New York’s schools are legally and morally required to provide to them,” education department spokesman Jonathan Burman said in a statement.
Johnson said Thursday that he was very satisfied with the work of both the attorney general and the state education department.
“It seems like they went beyond what was necessary to make sure other children, like our client, are not unlawfully denied an education,” Johnson said.
He said Velásquez remains enrolled in the school. The teenager’s aunt, María Mejía, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The attorney general’s investigation also found that as late as August 2016, the district’s publicly available enrollment materials did not meet state requirements, and that the district also did not have internal policies and procedures in place governing its enrollment process.
The North Babylon district joins 23 other school districts across the state that have entered into similar agreements with the attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau, the office said. Others on Long Island include Hempstead and Westbury.