The Virginia Department of Education issued a memo to its 132 divisions this week outlining how schools should handle the expected influx of more than 2,850 illegal immigrant children. In addition to giving them “homeless” status, which comes with benefits under the Homeless Assistance Act, the state is also ordering schools to “immediately enroll” the students and waive the health and immunization requirements of other students.
The memo to Virginia’s school divisions stressed the need to provide all children “equal access to an education” and highlighted the updated guidance from the Obama administration providing more flexibility on the documentation students need to enroll in public schools.
“Such equal access extends to children who come into the United States from other countries without an adult guardian. These children are referred to as unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal statutes,” the memo explains.
The memo explains that many of these immigrant minors will be deemed “homeless,” which provides protections and benefits under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, including immediate enrollment, “educational services for which they are eligible," and "referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health services, and other appropriate services.”
The VDOE memo stresses that even if the children cannot provide the required health and immunization records, the schools “must immediately enroll" them:
“In addition, division superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students,” the memo continued. “School divisions must immediately refer the student to the school division liaison required to assist the student in obtaining necessary physical examinations or proof of completion of immunizations.”