In response to an inquiry about unaccompanied minors from one of its school divisions, Virginia’s Department of Education issued a memo this month reminding its 132 divisions about their obligation to educate all children.
“In light of the heightened media coverage of the issue of undocumented immigrant children, VDOE provides the following updated information for your use in responding to community questions or issues,” says the memo distributed to the commonwealth’s 132 school divisions and obtained by Breitbart News.
The memo to Virginia’s school divisions stressed the need to provide all children “equal access to an education” and highlighted the updated guidance from the Obama administration providing more flexibility on the documentation students need to enroll in public schools.
“Such equal access extends to children who come into the United States from other countries without an adult guardian. These children are referred to as unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal statutes,” the memo explains.
More than 2,850 unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors have been placed with sponsors in Virginia.
According to the memo, under federal and Virginia law, the state expects that many of the unaccompanied minors who enroll in public school will be considered “homeless.”
“While a case-by-case review of each child’s circumstances upon enrolling in a Virginia public school is necessary, many of these unaccompanied children will be deemed homeless under applicable state and federal law,” the memo reads. It goes on:
Pursuant to Va. Code § 22.1-3, a homeless child is one who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The statute specifies that, included in this definition, are ‘unaccompanied youths who are not in the physical custody of their parents, who… are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or other causes; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations or in emergency, congregate, temporary, or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement…’
Guidance released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education about the unaccompanied minors also pointed out that unaccompanied minors in the custody of sponsors could be eligible for benefits under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Monday’s guidance from the Education Department reads:
Under McKinney-Vento, school districts must appoint a local liaison to ensure, among other things, that (1) children and youth eligible under McKinney Vento are identified; (2) that they immediately enroll in, and have a full and equal opportunity to succeed in, the schools of the district; and (3) they receive educational services for which they are eligible, and referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health services, and other appropriate services.
The VDOE memo reiterated the requirement that school divisions “must immediately enroll homeless students” and must do so regardless of whether or not they are able “to produce the records required for enrollment.”
“In addition, division superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students,” the memo continued. “School divisions must immediately refer the student to the school division liaison required to assist the student in obtaining necessary physical examinations or proof of completion of immunizations.”
The VDOE memo included links to various government guidance dealing with the rights of children to enroll in public school.
According to a VDOE spokesman, the initial inquiry was from one school district about a single unaccompanied minor.
Since October, more than 62,900 unaccompanied minors have been detained illegally entering the United States through the southern border. The vast majority of the unaccompanied minors are from Central America.