Seven N.J. school districts sued over photo-ID enrollment policy

Posted: June 04, 2014

The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits Monday against seven school districts, including three in Camden County, alleging that they have illegally required government-issued photo identifications when registering children for school.

The lawsuits contend that the districts' policies discriminate against immigrant families and violate state and federal requirements.

The Camden County districts are Audubon, Gloucester Township, and Somerdale Park. Their superintendents could not be reached Monday for comment.

"It is deeply troubling that in New Jersey today public schools discriminate against immigrant families, and do so despite repeated warnings to come into compliance with clearly established law," said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU-NJ.

In early April, the ACLU sent letters to 136 districts warning that they were imposing illegal barriers to immigrant student enrollment and could face litigation.

By late May, 109 districts had changed their policies, and 27 had not. State ACLU spokeswoman Allison Peltzman said the lawsuits were filed against the seven districts with the most restrictive policies. Also sued were Galloway Township in Atlantic County and North Brunswick, Old Bridge Township, and Perth Amboy in Middlesex County.

Federal and state law and regulations hold that schools cannot ask about a student's immigration status or discriminate on the basis of national origin or immigration status.

The lawsuits ask the court to make the districts halt their photo-identification requirements for student registration.

The ACLU began investigating enrollment policies after residents of Butler in Morris County brought their district's restrictive policies to the organization's attention. The ACLU filed a lawsuit, and the district ended up agreeing to drop the restrictions.

The only requirements New Jersey has for enrolling students, a spokeswoman said, is proof of age and proof of in-district residency.



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