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District cited by NYCLU in report

Social Security numbers no longer required: Sullivan

July 31, 2010
By MICHAEL ANICH, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN -A Greater Johnstown School District official said a New York Civil Liberties Union citation alleging the district had a barrier to immigrant children was false and cleared up some time ago.

District Superintendent Katherine Sullivan said Tuesday her district contacted the NYCLU to clarify there was no problem.

"We have never, ever turned away a student," Sullivan said.

The Greater Johnstown School District was the only school district in the tri-county area cited by the NYCLU in a report it issued July 23.

In its analysis, the NYCLU said that school registration requirements in at least 20 percent of public school districts across New York state may be unlawfully barring or discouraging the enrollment of immigrant students. The school districts are asking for information that would reveal a parent or child's immigration status as a prerequisite for school enrollment, an NYCLU release stated.

The release said the Johnstown district was listed as an "offender" district in this area - one of 139 districts surveyed among the state's 694 school districts - that asks either "directly or indirectly" for proof of a parent or child's immigration status.

Sullivan said the Johnstown district used to request people fill in their Social Security numbers when children are registered for kindergarten. She said that practice isn't being done anymore, and it only was required initially because the state Education Department used Social Security numbers for student identification.

"We're not requiring it," Sullivan said. "We have since taken that requirement off the registration form."

She said the NYCLU equated what Johnstown was doing with discrimination against immigrant children. She said the district responded to the NYCLU and the discrepancy was resolved.

"We have rectified that," Sullivan said.

The release used the Oxford Academy and Central Schools, between Binghamton and Syracuse, as an example that mandates children provide their Social Security number when registering.

"While this may not appear to discriminate, undocumented children are ineligible for Social Security numbers and are therefore unable to register," the release said.

The release said NYCLU lawyers "started reaching out to the state Education Department as early as September 2009 about failure to adequately protect all students' right to a public education, but the department has consistently failed to respond adequately to the situation."

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at johnstown@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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