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Alabama law drives children out of public schools

NEA President: We haven’t seen anything as ugly as this since the days of segregation


WASHINGTON - October 05, 2011 -

Following a U. S. District Court ruling on an Alabama immigration law, scores of immigrant families  have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week. Parents are afraid  that sending their children to school will  draw attention from authorities, according to media reports.  

“Our schools provide a crucial safe harbor for all children,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  "This law is having a chilling effect – children are literally vanishing from Alabama classrooms. School employees are hired to help students learn, not check their immigration status. What students need most to succeed is an education and this law gets in the way of that.”

A bill passed by Alabama lawmakers, H.B. 56, requires school staff to ask the parents of newly enrolling students for proof of citizenship for students. Parents are not required to provide such proof, but if they fail to do so, the student is presumed to be undocumented for reporting purposes.

“We applaud the U.S. Department of Justice for its efforts to curb this harmful  law,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Our public schools were created with the promise that all students who walk through their doors would be educated – regardless of the child’s national origin or the economic status of their parents.”   The U.S. Supreme Court previously supported the right of children to be educated regardless of their national origin in Plyler v. Doe, (1982). NEA filed an amicus brief in that case.

NEA and the Alabama Education Association filed an amicus brief, challenging H.B. 56.  The brief stated that “the purpose and effect of H.B. 56 is to use fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants and their children out of the state of Alabama.”

“The message ‘You’re not welcome here’ harks back to another period in history when children were denied the right to an education – a period America’s students should never have to revisit,” said Van Roekel.  “Nobody wins when a state law pushes students into the shadows. The National Education Association believes all students should have access to public education and we will continue our legal support to remove H.B. 56 from Alabama’s law books.” 

“Nobody wins when a state law pushes students into the shadows,” said Van Roekel. “The National Education Association believes all students should have access to public education and we will continue our legal support to remove H.B. 56 from Alabama’s law books.” 

Click here for NEAToday’s coverage of Alabama’s immigration law.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823, srobertson@nea.org