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Threat Of ACLU Suit Over Registration Policy Hangs Over School District

Franklin-school-board-officeThat fact that the Franklin Township school district was not among the seven districts recently sued over their enrollment policies does not mean it’s off the hook.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union made good June 2 on a threat issued to a number of school districts in the state – Franklin’s among them – which employ registration policies the ACLU contends are illegal.

The ACLU’s main beef is with districts that require some form of photo identification from a parent or guardian. Some ask specifically for a state-issued photo ID.

The ACLU on June 2 sued seven districts for their alleged violations, and promised more could come, including against Franklin.

“We will consider all of our options if the district does not bring its policy into compliance,” said Alexander Shalom, the ACLU’s senior staff attorney.

In Franklin’s case, the requirement that a student’s parent or guardian provide the district with photo identification runs afoul of “constitutional law, state law and state regulations,” according to a letter Shalom sent to the district in April.

“The requirement discriminates against immigrant parents, preventing or discouraging them from registering their children to attend public school,” Shalom said in his letter. “Therefore, such requirements must be immediately removed from the district’s registration process.”

District spokeswoman Mary Clark said in an email that the district “is among 138 in the state which was identified by the ACLU-NJ.   The District is in receipt of a letter from the ACLU questioning our registration process and that the matter is under review by our attorney.”

What kept Franklin out of the first seven lawsuits was the language in its registration packet, according to ACLU spokeswoman Allison Peltzman.

“The seven districts that we sued all asked specifically for state-issued ID from the parent, which we believe is more restrictive than simply asking for a photo ID generically,” she wrote in an email. “However, school districts cannot require photo ID or state-issued photo ID from parents/guardians as a condition of school enrollment, and that makes Franklin’s policy problematic.”

There was no word from the district as to when the attorney review would be completed – the letter was sent on April 1 – or from the ACLU on when it would decide whether to include Franklin in the law suits.

The ACLU filed suits against seven districts in the state: North Brunswick, Old Bridge Township, and Perth Amboy in Middlese County; Audubon, Gloucester Township, and Somerdale Park in Camden County and Galloway Township in Atlantic County.

“The law in this area is unambiguous: schools cannot impose restrictions on enrollment that discriminate unconstitutionally,” Shalom said in a press release about the suits. “We want all New Jersey residents to know that no matter what your background is, your children have the right to enroll in their local school district. And, we hope that every school district will be vigilant in ensuring that they provide equal access to children so that we will not have to resort to court action to remind them of their obligation.”

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