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Undocumented Students

 Guidelines Regarding the Use of Social Security Numbers and the Attendance at School of Undocumented Students 

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 102 S. Ct. 2382 (1982) that a state may not deny undocumented school-aged children entry into the public school system of that state.  The Supreme Court overturned a Texas state law denying state aid to school districts admitting undocumented children of parents coming into the country illegally.  For Missouri schools, this means that a district cannot deny admission to school or participation in any program based on a student's undocumented status.  A student's undocumented status refers to his or her inability or the inability of the student's parents to provide a social security number, green card, visa or other documentation that indicates legal residence in the United States.  Any such discrimination would be a denial of the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Undocumented students are protected under the federal law regarding student records.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that educational student records be kept confidential.  Information that may be in school records regarding a student's undocumented status must be kept confidential.  Disclosure should be made only after parental consent or based upon express authority provided under FERPA.

The Privacy Act of 1974 addresses the use of social security numbers by federal, state, or local governmental agencies.  The Act states, in part, that it is: 

'unlawful for any federal, state, or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security number."

Agencies that collect social security numbers must disclose how that number will be used and the limits of its use.  Any request to disclose a social security number must be accompanied by the following statement:

"Any federal, state, or local governmental agency which requests an individual to disclose his social security number shall inform that individual whether the disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it.

If mandatory disclosure is not specifically authorized under the Privacy Act, then the disclosure is voluntary.  A school district may not require disclosure of a social security number or use the refusal of a student to provide a social security number as a basis for denial of enrollment.  Instead, districts should have in place a procedure for assigning a school-generated number to use in place of a social security number.  Parents completing a free or reduced lunch application should be allowed to write "NONE" in the blank for their children's social security number.

Students enrolling in the Missouri public schools, including those with undocumented status, are exercising a right guaranteed under the laws of the State of Missouri.  To deny enrollment based on undocumented status or based on a failure to disclose a social security number or other documentation violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the federal statutes previously cited.  School staff responsible for enrolling students must be aware of these requirements.  

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