Sonoma County Office of Education

Know Your Educational Rights

Educational Rights for Immigrant Families Under California and Federal Law*

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A Latina student smiles at the camera along with other students.

Your Child has the Right to a Free Public Education

  • All children in the United States have a constitutional right to equal access to free public education, regardless of immigration status and regardless of the immigration status of the students’ parents or guardians.
  • In California:
    • All children have the right to a free public education.
    • All children ages 6 to 18 years must be enrolled in school.
    • All students and staff have the right to attend safe, secure, and peaceful schools.
    • All students have a right to be in a public school learning environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, violence, and intimidation.
    • All students have equal opportunity to participate in any program or activity offered by the school, and cannot be discriminated against based on their race, nationality, gender, religion, or immigration status, among other characteristics.

Information Required for School Enrollment

  • When enrolling a child, schools must accept a variety of documents from the student’s parent or guardian to demonstrate proof of child’s age or residency.
  • You never have to provide information about citizenship/immigration status to have your child enrolled in school. Also, you never have to provide a Social Security number to have your child enrolled in school.

Confidentiality of Personal Information

  • Federal and state laws protect student education records and personal information. These laws generally require that schools get written consent from parents or guardians before releasing student information, unless the release of information is for educational purposes, is already public, or is in response to a court order or subpoena.
    • Some schools collect and provide publicly basic student “directory information.” If they do, then each year, your child’s school district must provide parents/guardians with written notice of the school’s directory information policy, and let you know of your option to refuse release of your child’s information in the directory.

Family Safety Plans if You Are Detained or Deported

  • You have the option to provide your child’s school with emergency contact information, including the information of secondary contacts, to identify a trusted adult guardian who can care for your child in the event you are detained or deported.
  • You have the option to complete a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit or a Petition for Appointment of Temporary Guardian of the Person, which may enable a trusted adult the authority to make educational and medical decisions for your child.

Right to File a Complaint

  • Your child has the right to report a hate crime or file a complaint to the school district if he or she is discriminated against, harassed, intimidated, or bullied on the basis of his or her actual or perceived nationality, ethnicity, or immigration status.

*Adopted from Office of the California Attorney General - Promoting a Safe and Secure Learning Environment for All: Guidance and Model Policies to Assist California’s K-12 Schools in Responding to Immigration Issues (2018). Available at:

Schools are Not Affected by "Public Charge" Rule

Your child can safely access free/reduced lunch programs

The term Public Charge is used in immigration law to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. Changes to the existing rule, effective Oct. 15, 2019, will now make it more difficult to apply for permanent residency or earn a visa if an applicant is dependent on government aid such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), housing assistance, and Medicaid.

K–12 public education is not impacted by the Public Charge rule. Neither is your child’s ability to receive nutritious meals and snacks, before, during, and after school. All of the 6.2 million students in California’s public schools are allowed to participate in the school nutrition program available at their school site, and participation in the nutrition program does not impact immigration status.

It is important that all parents continue to complete meal applications and other forms requested by your child’s school.

School nutrition programs play a vital role in ensuring that students are eating nutritious meals that can help them concentrate during the school day and reach their full academic potential.

ICE Advocacy Authorization Forms

If a student, family member, or community member is having an immigration problem and wishes to seek help from their congressional representative, filling out an advocacy authorization form (see attached) is the required first step. The ICE Advocacy Authorization Form gives a congressman and his staff permission to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of the person who has filled it out and signed it. It allows them to request information about a particular person, such as where and how someone is being detained.

Download the ICE Advocacy Authorization bilingual forms:

AA Form: Rep. Thompson
AA Form: Rep Huffman

An individual's congressional representative can be looked up on this county web page.