Every California K-12 public school—including charter schools—now finds itself under new immigration-related guidelines from the Attorney General that will require many to update their policies and procedures. These guidelines include model policies addressing immigration enforcement and charter schools are required to adopt these model policies or equivalent policies. Time is of the essence, as each charter school must be fully compliant by July 1, 2018.

In keeping with the larger debate over immigration occurring in California and across the United States, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued sweeping guidance for K-12 schools on March 30, 2018, seeking to ensure “public schools remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status.” "Promoting a Safe and Secure Learning Environment for All: Guidance and Model Policies to Assist California K–12 Schools in Responding to Immigration Issues" addresses several critical topics for school administrators, including:

  • Responding to On-Campus Immigration Enforcement
  • Responding to the Detention or Deportation of a Student’s Family Member
  • Parental Notification of Immigration Enforcement Actions
  • Collecting, Retaining, and Sharing Student Information

Many charter schools have equivalent policies addressing some if not all of these issues. For example, some may have Uniform Complaint Procedure policies that cover bullying and hate crimes. Many may also find their Annual Notification of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Rights are adequate for protecting student information. Regardless, a thorough review of existing policies and procedures is now in order for every charter school.

With the stated goal of fostering a safer environment for all students, other requirements include:

  • Prohibiting charter schools from collecting information about a student’s citizenship or immigration status unless required by law;
  • Requiring charter schools to educate students about the negative impacts of bullying based on actual or perceived religious beliefs, immigration status, or customs; and
  • Providing notification to families that explains their children have a right to a free public education regardless of their immigration status or religious beliefs and includes information from the Attorney General’s “Know Your Rights” guidance.

As a demonstration of the importance of this new guidance to state leaders, the Attorney General is encouraging families to notify the California Department of Justice if they believe their child’s school has not adopted the model policies or equivalent policies. The time for school administrators to perform a thorough review of their current policies and procedures, and to make adjustments in partnership with appropriate legal counsel, is now.