Students and families of all language backgrounds and immigration statuses have the right to enroll in public school and receive language and special education accommodations. Unfortunately, not all schools and districts understand or comply with the rights laid out by state and federal laws.
As a result, the Southern Poverty Law Center is grateful to educators who are committed to understanding these rights and ensuring that their schools are fulfilling their legal responsibilities to students and families. Whether you are learning about students’ legal protections for the first time or an expert advocate looking for additional support, we’ve provided these resources to help.
Supporting and Affirming Immigrant Students and Families is a two-part webinar series for educators that was produced by Learning for Justice (LFJ) and co-hosted by staff from LFJ, SPLC and Immschools. Viewers will learn about some of the current realities and challenges facing immigrant families and will become familiar with the legal obligations that all public schools and school districts have to support immigrant students, multilingual learners, and their parents and guardians. The hosts also share resources and best practices to help educators advocate and better support all their students and families.
Guides and pamphlets
Protecting Immigrant Students’ Rights to a Public Education: A Guide for Families & Advocates
If you have reviewed the resources above and are looking to learn in more detail about the laws protecting the rights of students, parents and guardians at school, please refer to our English guide.
Protecting Immigrant Students’ Rights to a Public Education: A Pamphlet for Families & Advocates
This pamphlet provides a summary of U.S. federal laws that protect students and their families. After reading, you will understand what services schools and school districts must provide to students and families who are learning English, who are immigrants, who have disabilities, or who are experiencing homelessness. You will also learn some ways to push back if a school or district is violating your rights.
More languages coming soon.
Please check back for additional resources from the SPLC, coming soon.
Patli and Hugo’s Enrollment Story: A Family Advocates for Their Rights at School
Having a hard time understanding your legal obligations in practice? This story illustrates a mother and son's journey to enroll in school and get all of the services and supports they need to succeed. Throughout the story, we identify common rights violations and explain what schools should be doing to meet the needs of students and families.
Learning for Justice resources
If you are looking for new ways to support your immigrant and EL students in your classroom or school district, the SPLC’s Learning for Justice (LFJ) project – formerly known as Teaching Tolerance – is dedicated to providing educational materials to supplement curriculums, inform educational practices, and create inclusive school communities where children and their families are respected, valued and welcomed participants.
Best Practices for Serving English Language Learners and Their Families
This short guide explains best practices that can be applied throughout a school. Each section spotlights the ways a teacher can take action outside the classroom to ensure EL students and their families enjoy welcoming and equitable experiences at school.
Supporting Students from Immigrant Families
This list is continuously updated with the types of resources educators say they need to better support immigrant students and families.
U.S. government resources
The U.S. government has a range of resources from fact sheets, resource lists, and letters to a toolkit to help educators provide the support necessary for EL students.
This fact sheet was issued by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It outlines examples of acceptable and unacceptable school enrollment policies.
“Dear Colleague” letter about enrollment rights
This letter from the DOE and DOJ explains school districts’ responsibilities to comply with federal civil rights laws related to public school enrollment. It can be shared with schools and school districts to remind them of their obligation to provide equal educational opportunities to all children.
Fact sheet on meaningful participation of EL students
This fact sheet by the DOE and the DOJ identifies school districts’ numerous responsibilities to EL students in all aspects of education.
Fact sheet on the rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) caregivers
This fact sheet by the DOE and DOJ answers common questions about how schools must communicate with students’ caretakers.
“Dear Colleague” letter about EL students and LEP caregivers
This letter by the DOE and DOJ details what public schools and state education agencies must do to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by students at school. It also explains what constitutes “meaningful communication” with LEP parents and caregivers and provides suggestions for evaluating the success of a school district’s EL program.
English Learner Toolkit for State and Local Education Agencies (SEAs and LEAs)
Issued by the DOE, this toolkit is designed to help education agencies “in meeting their legal obligations to ELs and in providing all ELs with the support needed to attain English language proficiency while meeting college- and career-readiness standards. The EL Tool Kit is intended primarily for state, district and school administrators, as well as teachers, but may also inform other stakeholders concerned with the education of ELs.”
This list contains tools and information about schools’ obligations to EL students and LEP parents. It is also available in other languages.
This list explains students’ and families’ rights and protections under federal civil rights law, including Title VI.
Would you like assistance making your classroom, school or school district a more inviting place for immigrant and EL families? Do you need help advocating for an EL student or family? Please give us a call from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, Monday – Friday at 1-800-591-3656.
You can find more resources for educators at learningforjustice.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.