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Appeal Backs Immigrant Student Barred from School

The influx of unaccompanied immigrant children has led to problems with school registrations. (ryse5/pixabay.com)
The influx of unaccompanied immigrant children has led to problems with school registrations. (ryse5/pixabay.com)
May 5, 2016

NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union is appealing a decision that barred a sixteen-year-old immigrant from attending high school in Mamaroneck. The school district claims that a certificate showing the child had completed educational requirements in Guatemala meant that he already has finished high school.

Guisela Marroquin, regional organizer for the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island for the NYCLU, said the certificate only means he completed middle school in his native country.

"All students should be enrolled in public school no matter the country they're coming from, and New York State law does state that students up until the age of 21 should be enrolled in a public school to complete their high school degree," she said.

Problems with school enrollments have become increasingly common with the wave of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in New York.

According to Marroquin, there have been similar incidents in school districts across the state including several on Long Island.

"We did have a lot of cases from our Hempstead office, which we collaboratively worked with the New York State Department of Education and also local groups to bring some awareness about this," she added.

The problem, she said, is that school districts often are unfamiliar with educational systems in other countries, and misinterpret documents.

Marroquin points out that incidents like this can have a serious impact on a child's education.

"If another district had not accepted him, he would not be in school, and at this point this process is almost two months in since the initial time that the mom delivered documents for registration," she said.

She said the state Department of Education is trying to make more resources available to districts to assist them in interpreting documents from other countries.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY