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Regents advance rules for educating immigrant children

Immigrant children will be guaranteed speedy admission to

Immigrant children will be guaranteed speedy admission to public schools, and districts will be prohibited from requiring burdensome paperwork under regulations given initial approval by the state's Board of Regents on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Immigrant children will be guaranteed a speedy admission to public schools, and districts will be prohibited from requiring burdensome paperwork of those children and their guardians, under regulations given initial approval Monday by the state's Board of Regents.

The state's new rules, prompted by recent events in the Hempstead school district, seek to help immigrant students who arrive unaccompanied by adults or without school records and other documentation.

State education officials, as a rationale for the extra regulations, cited their recent investigation of the Hempstead district. The district had been accused of not complying with the law by preventing 34 Hispanic children from enrolling. Those children later were admitted.

"We want to make sure that we don't have kids sitting in trailers," said Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Regents board. "These kids need to be in school, and the law says they're supposed to be in school."

The rules' unanimous approval Monday by a Regents committee virtually guarantees passage by the entire board Tuesday.

The rules require districts to enroll such students within a day of a request from a parent or guardian or "as soon as practicable." The regulations prohibit districts from requiring Social Security cards, and permit use of numerous documents, such as utility bills or parents' or guardians' pay stubs, to establish residence.

Lamont Johnson, Hempstead school board president, said his district had been overwhelmed by a recent arrival of immigrant students, and praised a separate Regents proposal to increase state financial aid to districts affected by such surges.

"We are going to use it wisely," Johnson said.

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