Washington, D.C. education chief Kaya Henderson on Aug. 15 suspended an order that would require parents to verify their immigration status before enrolling their children in the District’s afterschool programs.
"Effective immediately, I have told our folks (after school team and coordinators) to suspend/not enforce the citizenship requirement. If counsel concludes we need to, we can go back and communicate that," said Henderson, chancellor for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), in statement.
In a July 31 letter to parents, the school system outlined requirements for afterschool program enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year. In addition to documenting the adult’s relationship to the child, that person’s D.C. residency and income, the parent or guardian also had to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.
The mandate, which was established by the OSSE, prompted community concern and the involvement of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, which met with DCPS Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley to discuss their worries.
“These requirements possess a [present] danger for public offices. It discriminates against children and families that are undocumented, destroying the trust between teachers, and families,” said Roxana Olivas, director for the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, in a statement.
“It discourages participation of many programs and educational rights. It also creates a level of hesitance to obtain services from many other agencies that do not have the same requirement. Education is a human right that should be offered to everyone without reservation.”
In a statement issued on Aug. 16, the OSSE sought to clarify its position and reiterate its support for all District students.
“As State Education Agency for the District of Columbia, OSSE remains dedicated to providing service and support for District children of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities,” the statement read.
OSSE manages federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including $6.8 million that will be channeled into DCPS’ afterschool programming for the 2012-2013 school year.
Because of its fiduciary responsibilities, OSSE has to require official documentation—including a child’s legal status—in its eligibility requirements.
“A lack of supporting program eligibility documentation represents a serious violation of federal requirements and could lead to audits, fines, grant revocation and other sanctions,” the statement read. “OSSE has invested considerable time in its effort to remove the District of Columbia from the ‘high risk’ status the agency inherited upon its inception, so it is critical – for the sake of all D.C. students – that OSSE adhere to all federal requirements.”
So far, more than 99.9 percent of District children participating in afterschool programming remain eligible with no obstacles, OSSE continued, and DCPS has already committed to funding the participation of students who lack the necessary documentation.