Dear Colleague Letter on Equal Educational Opportunities for School Enrollment
The Departments of Justice and Education released guidance – updating/replacing the Dear Colleague Letter of April, 2011 - on State and Local Agency’s obligation to facilitate equal educational opportunities.
Federal Law requires States and Local Agencies to provide elementary and secondary education access regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status of parents/guardians (“suspect classifications”): Civil Rights Act 1964, Title VI. Furthermore, States and Local Agencies violate Federal Law by requesting information on suspect classification with the purpose and/or effect of perpetrating invidious discrimination.
Examples of Federal Law-compliant enrollment practices are provided. The Fact Sheet and Question and Answer documents present scenarios that distinguish intra and ultra vires exercise of power. The underlying principle is that there must be a firm nexus between the enrollment practice and a legitimate government interest. For example, a request that applicants furnish proof of residency within the district is rationally related to the legitimate governmental interest of providing educational services to district residents. Inquiry about an applicant’s immigrant status is not rationally related to this interest.
The purpose of the letter, and the accompanying documents, is to assist Public School Districts comply with their obligations under Federal Law.