"The enrollment form is almost identical to the enrollment form we have been using. The Social Security number has always been a voluntary piece of information. And we have never not enrolled a student for a lack of Social Security number," said Ozark City Schools Associate Superintendent Dr. Richard McInturf.
He says the same thing is true for birth certificates, and he says they use alternate methods of identifying children.
"All of those things that are on all of our documents in terms of non-discrimination, we believe very strongly in that and do our best to comply with that on a daily basis," McInturf said.
But members of the Southern Poverty Law Center say too many schools have not complied federal laws against discrimination.
And they say many schools included these requirements on only the Spanish forms, which they say is a clear intent to discriminate against certain students.
"We want to ensure that all schools have an open and tolerant atmosphere that is welcoming of all students. All children, regardless of their immigration status, or where they were born, are entitled to an education," said Jay Singh, staff attorney at SPLC.
State Superintendent of Education Thomas Bice sent a memo to schools last month, requiring them to use a new enrollment form. It indicates providing a Social Security number is voluntary and shows no birth certificate requirement.
"We can't hold children accountable for actions that their parents took or for which they had no fault,” Singh said. “And so, by denying those kids an education, you're really setting them back and preventing them from being participants in our civic society."
He says the SPLC will continue to monitor the schools to make sure they comply with federal law.
The SPLC and Department of Justice both sued to block a far-reaching state immigration law just a few years ago.
The requirement to use the new enrollment form took effect on July 1st.
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