The administration said it has issued new guidelines for local districts, replacing ones released in 2011. A 1982 Supreme Court ruling barred schools from discriminating against children because of their immigration status.
"Sadly, too many schools and school districts are still denying rights," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, joining Attorney General Eric Holder on a conference call with reporters. "Our message is simple: Let all children living in your district enroll in school."
Under the existing federal guidelines, schools can ask for proof that a student lives in the district like a utility bill or a lease. But they cannot demand Social Security numbers or birth certificates, although they can ask for Social Security numbers to be given voluntarily.
A 2013 survey in Alabama by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that enrollment forms in 81 districts did things like asking for Social Security numbers without saying they could be withheld, Jerri Katzerman, the center's deputy legal director said. One magnet program in Mobile County also asked for the numbers of a would-be student's brothers and sisters.