- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s school superintendent is telling all Alabama public school systems to start using a new student enrollment process that makes clear a Social Security number or birth certificate is not necessary for enrollment.

Superintendent Tommy Bice sent school systems a standardized enrollment form after the Southern Poverty Law Center complained that more than 70 percent of Alabama’s school systems have been using enrollment practices that violate federal prohibitions against denying or discouraging the enrollment of immigrant children. The law center said many of the previous forms required a Social Security number or birth certificate.

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Jay Singh commended Bice on Thursday “for taking action to ensure that all children - regardless of immigration status or birthplace - have equal access to Alabama’s public schools.”

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said this was the first time the department has sent schools a standardized enrollment form to use. The form makes clear that giving a Social Security number is voluntary, and Bice directed all schools to use it for the upcoming school year.

In a letter accompanying the form, Bice said, “A birth certificate is not required for enrollment.” He said schools can use other documents for verification of age, such as religious or medical records, an adoption record, or an affidavit from a parent.

Bice also told school officials that an Alabama driver’s license is not required for proof of residency. “You may request a driver’s license, but must accept other forms of documentation such as a utility bill or residential lease,” he wrote.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been involved in immigration issues for several years. It successfully challenged a provision in Alabama’s 2011 immigration law that required public schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled students.

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