Dangerous Legal Status Precedent Averted

Painting © Mark Vallen.

In mid-August, Teaching for Change staff member America Calderon saw a new requirement on the form for parents enrolling their children in afterschool programs: bring in proof of U.S. legal status.

Teaching for Change staff members quickly made some calls and learned that this was not initiated by DCPS. Instead it is a requirement from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) based on federal funding received for “out of school time.” The documentation was required of all families seeking financial assistance for the after school programs in D.C. public schools.

We reached out to colleagues in DCPS, the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, the National Council of La Raza, and local advocacy groups.

Within three days, the forms were changed. DCPS sent a note on 8/15/2012 to all afterschool coordinators stating that: “Citizenship Requirements are currently suspended!!”

This is the first time we at Teaching for Change were aware of U.S. legal status being a requirement for public school programs in D.C., where our office is based. It would have been a dangerous precedent, discriminating against families who are undocumented and creating inequitable access to enriching after school programs. It would have also discouraged the participation of many families with an added level of paperwork.

We would like to acknowledge the collective effort of everyone in and outside of DCPS who worked round the clock to make sure that this dangerous precedent was averted.