California School News — November 2017
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New Legislation On Immigration Status

“Immigration status” was a headline grabber in Sacramento throughout the 2017 year, as a handful of bills made their way through the Legislature and were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown amid concerns about how anticipated shifts in federal immigration policy and enforcement might affect California’s students and families.

While a number of these newly signed bills do apply to public schools, the message for school district and county leaders heading into 2018 is simply, “don’t panic.”

“Essentially what these bills do is reaffirm the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, that public schools must serve all students regardless of their immigration status, and codify or strengthen policies and procedures that school districts and county offices of education already employ,” said Nancy Chaires Espinoza, CSBA legislative advocate.

There are four bills of note pertaining to student immigration status that were signed in 2017: Assembly Bill 699 (O’Donnell, D-Long Beach), Senate Bill 31 (Lara, D-Bell Gardens) and SB 54 (de León, D-Los Angeles) were all supported by CSBA. SB 257 (Lara), on which CSBA held an “oppose unless amended” position, does create some uncertainty for school districts and counties — in particular for those near or adjacent to the U.S.–Mexico border — which may require further clarification and/ or legislative “clean up” in 2018.

SB 257 provides that a pupil, for the purposes of admission to a school district of their choice, would be deemed a resident of California if their parents have departed the United States for an adjoining country against their will — most commonly, this will apply to situations where parents and/or guardians have been deported or are under threat of deportation. Amendments made to the bill late in the session also applied these provisions to parents who have, also against their will, departed California to an adjoining state.

“The biggest question surrounding this new law is how school districts verify whether or not a student is eligible for admission under this bill; the documentation that will actually be required is not clearly defined,” CSBA’s Chaires Espinoza said. “School districts will also have to balance verification of eligibility with existing CSBA guidance that discourages local educational agencies from inquiring about a pupil or family’s legal status, or requesting documentation that could discourage students from enrolling in school.”

“It is important to note, as districts determine a student’s eligibility under this bill, that if an order of deportation is presented, that does not necessarily mean that a pupil’s parents are actually in custody of immigration enforcement or have actually left the country,” she added.

CSBA’s legal staff is reviewing the legislation and will issue updated information for school and county boards pertaining to implementation of this bill as necessary.

SB 54, which has been at times inaccurately referred to as a “sanctuary state” bill, limits communication and sharing of data between state/local law enforcement agencies (including police departments of county offices of education and school districts) and federal law enforcement on issues related to enforcement of immigration law. The bill’s author, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, clarified on several occasions during the legislative session that the bill does not provide “sanctuary” with regard to immigration status.

The bill has raised concerns from some school district leaders that its provisions would prevent schools from working and contracting with local law enforcement; Chaires Espinoza points out that this is not the case, and that the bill simply disallows local law enforcement from acting as immigration agents in dealing with schools. By October 2018, the California Attorney General is tasked with providing model policies for LEAs to adopt on limiting assistance with immigration enforcement; CSBA will review those policies when they are made available.

SB 31, the “California Religious Freedom Act,” prohibits LEAs from providing the federal government with information regarding an individual’s religious beliefs, practices or affiliation when the information is sought for compiling a database of individuals for immigration enforcement purposes. As LEAs are already bound by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, SB 31 does not change existing protocol for sharing information and would not create any new exceptions to the existing FERPA law where an LEA would be specifically required to share such data.

AB 699, which codifies elements of the Plyler v. Doe decision into California statute, directs LEAs to adopt policies on limiting assistance with immigration enforcement at public schools and ensuring that public schools remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status. Similar to SB 54, model policies will be forthcoming from the Attorney General, which CSBA will likewise review. Safe haven resolutions, which many local boards have adopted in 2017, contain many of the same provisions that will be contained in model policies issued pursuant to AB 699.

CSBA’s sample policies will also be updated following the signing of SB 257, SB 31 and AB 699. Questions from board members on these bills or related matters can be directed to Governmental Relations at

Additional information on these four bills and all newly signed legislation is available at