Social Security and Birth Certificate Requirements 

Arizona law requires parents to prove their children’s age and identity each time they enroll them in a new school (A.R.S. § 15-828). Parents may provide a birth certificate, but it is not the only document that can be used to establish a child’s age and identity. Other reliable documents include a passport, a baptismal certificate or an affidavit explaining the inability to provide a copy of the birth certificate submitted with original school registration (A.R.S. § 15-828(A)(2))

Most charter schools in Arizona ask for a child’s birth certificate and don’t give parents alternatives. In fact, only 46 of the charter schools analyzed offer parents an open list of alternatives. Some parents may be reluctant to provide their children’s foreign birth certificate, fearing that doing so could lead to questions about their children’s, or their own, immigration status. Parents should be made aware that all students, regardless of their children’s or their own immigration status, are guaranteed equal access to public education under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 229-30 (1982))
 
In addition, at least 56 Arizona charter schools ask for students’ Social Security numbers as a way to prove their identity. At least 25 charter schools also ask either for the parents’ Social Security numbers or government-issued ID in order to enroll their children. Parents are not legally obligated to provide Social Security numbers for themselves or their children, nor do they have to provide information or documentation related to their citizenship or immigration status in order to enroll their children (Fact Sheet: Information on the Rights of All Children to Enroll in School, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education (2014)). Such requests are illegal and may discourage the enrollment of students who are undocumented or whose parents are undocumented.
 
Most charter schools also ask in their enrollment forms for the country or state where students were born. The Arizona Department of Education asks schools to provide this information through the state’s student data system, called AzEDS. The purpose of this question, according to a department spokesperson, is to determine which students are foreign exchange students since they are not eligible for state funding. However, the department does not mandate schools collect and report where students were born, which is not made clear to schools. Asking for a student’s place of birth could create fear that the information will be used by immigration enforcement officers to go after undocumented students and their families.
 
Scottsdale Country Day School (Scottsdale): In its handbook, the school states, “According to the 1999 Education Code Title XV we require a copy of your child’s birth certificate before student may begin classes.” However, it does not note that under Arizona law, parents can provide other documents, such as a baptismal certificate, to prove their children’s age and identity.
 
Incito Schools (Goodyear): “You must provide a government-issued photo identification to enroll your student.”
 
Montessori Education Centre Charter School (Mesa): The school’s enrollment form asks for the Social Security number of both parents.
 
Berean Academy (Sierra Vista): The school asks if the student is a U.S. citizen.
 
North Pointe Preparatory (Phoenix): The student’s Social Security number is requested in the enrollment form.
 
PLC Arts Academy at Scottsdale (Scottsdale): For students born outside the U.S., the school asks (through its online enrollment form) when the students entered the country and started attending school here.
 
Some charter schools also ask questions to determine if a student is eligible for a program. For example, some ask if students and their families have moved in the last three years to seek farm work. The school may be asking this question to determine if the student is eligible for the Migrant Education Program, which is a federally funded and state-operated program that provides supplemental services to the children of seasonal or temporary agricultural workers.
 
These questions may be asked, but schools should indicate it is for the purpose of providing services and it will not influence enrollment. The same applies to charter schools that ask if students are refugees, which is a question schools may ask to determine if students are eligible for the Refugee School Impact Program that provides schools with services to address the educational needs of refugee children.
 
RECOMMENDATIONS
  • In order to comply with A.R.S. § 15-828, charter schools should accept any documentation recognized under Arizona law that verifies the student’s identity and age, not only a birth certificate.
  • Enrollment forms should not ask for Social Security numbers of students or parents.
  • Enrollment forms should not ask for citizenship information about students or parents.
  • Schools should only ask for the place of birth of foreign exchange students, and the Department of Education should make clear to schools this is the only time place of birth information is needed from enrollees.
  • When asking if a student is the child of migrant workers or is a refugee, the school should make clear responses will only be used to provide services and will not influence enrollment.

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