This case is part of an ACLU campaign across the state of New Jersey
. Following a DOJ letter stating that all children have equal access to public education, the ACLU sent a letter to 136 school districts it had determined to have strict identification requirements for adults to enroll children in school. These policies were against state and federal law, and significantly impacted the children of undocumented immigrants. When eight of the districts failed to change their restrictive policies, ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit against each of them. The Somerdale Park Public School District was one of those districts.
On May 30, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Camden County, Chancery Division. The ACLU-NJ sued Somerdale Park Public School District under the New Jersey Constitution. The ACLU-NJ claimed violations of the equal protection cause of the 14th Amendment and two sections of the New Jersey Constitution, including its sections on equal protection and thorough and efficient education. The ACLU-NJ sued on behalf of its own interests as a long-time advocate of immigration rights, as well as on behalf of immigrant residents of Somerdale Park. The ACLU-NJ claimed that the school district's registration process unfairly discriminated against the children of undocumented parents by requiring a driver's license.
In Somerdale Park, during the registration of kindergarten and new students, parents were given a list of required documents, several of which are used to prove residency in the township. One of those required documents was a driver's license, which undocumented immigrants were unable to obtain without a social security number or valid immigration paperwork. Without the license, children of these immigrants were unable to attend school, depriving them of their right to education.
By June 9 2014, the parties reached a settlement, although documentation beyond the stipulation of dismissal is currently unavailable.
In addition to Somerdale Park, each of the other six districts altered their discriminatory practices within a week of being sued by the ACLU-NJ (ACLU-NJ Statement
). The suit against Butler School District had already been resolved in March.
The other lawsuits brought by ACLU-NJ are also available in the Clearinghouse: Butler School District, Galloway Township Public Schools, Glouster Township Public School District, Audubon Public School District, Old Bridge Township Public School District, North Brunswick Public School District,
and Perth Amboy Public School District.Carolyn Weltman - 12/07/2015