- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Policies at most public schools in New Orleans violate federal law against discouraging enrollment of children based on immigration status, two advocacy groups said Wednesday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and VAYLA-New Orleans said 55 of 83 New Orleans public schools require Social Security numbers for enrollment - without explaining that disclosing the number is voluntary. The groups say some schools also require a parent to provide a driver’s license or state ID when other forms of photo identification are acceptable.

Most of the schools are charter schools overseen by the state’s Recovery School District and operated by 23 different charter organizations. Six were charters overseen by the Orleans Parish School Board.

Neither the parish school system nor RSD officials responded to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Southern Poverty and VAYLA said 26 schools comply with federal law. Most are RSD schools run by five different charter organizations. Thirteen are Orleans Parish School Board schools - some run directly by the board and some chartered.

Eden Heilman, of Southern Poverty’s New Orleans office, said in an email that the organization sent letters Wednesday asking each school alleged to be out of compliance to change the enrollment practices.

“This discrimination affects all children, but particularly immigrant children with every right to attend these public schools,” staff attorney Jennifer Coco said in a news release. “Regardless of status or nationality, these vulnerable children are a part of the fabric of our community and it’s in the best interest of not only the child but also the community that they be enrolled in a school and receive an appropriate education. And the law supports this notion.”

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