Member Support

Resources for Undocumented Students

photo of demonstration for supporting undocumented students

Last Updated: March 3, 2017

Our current political climate, specifically with respect to immigration, has raised stress levels in many schools and districts around our state. Requests have come into AWSP for resources on dealing with this issue.  We realize that each principal’s political reality varies greatly from district to district, so as you look at the resources we are beginning to compile here, be sure that the actions you take align with your district's policies and procedures and your superintendent is on board with your plan of action.  

Dealing with major issues that become significant distractions is nothing new for principals. Taking the lead on ensuring students' physical and emotional safety, coordinating and leading cohesive staff action, and communicating with students, parents, and the larger community is what we do. Sharing your strategies with colleagues is what makes your association strong. 

We’ll keep posting tools, resources, and communications samples dealing with undocumented students and immigration issues on this page as we get them in. 

Sample Letters

We'll update sample letters and communications as they become available. 

Here's a sample communication from the Pullman School District. 

_________________ School District is committed to serving all students. Every child has the right to a free public K-12 education, regardless of immigration status. It is our honor and responsibility to provide a quality education in a safe and stable learning environment, to offer transportation to and from school, and extend services like free or reduced meals for students who qualify.



The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has recently received questions from schools and districts about their responsibility regarding collecting and releasing the immigration status of their students. Below are some general guidelines we hope answers some of those questions.

The most relevant U.S. Supreme Court case is Plyler v. Doe, from 1982. In Plyler, the Court ruled that undocumented students have the same right to attend public schools as U.S. citizens and permanent residents. As a result of the ruling, public schools:

  • May not deny admission to a student during initial enrollment or at any other time on the basis of immigration status.
  • May not treat a student differently to determine residency.
  • May not engage in any practices that might have a “chilling effect” on school enrollment.
  • May not require students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status, including Social Security numbers.

May not make inquiries of students or parents that may expose their undocumented status. Examples include asking for a student’s status when enrolling the student as an English learner or when enrolling for free or reduced-price meals.

Some information – such as a student’s race, ethnicity and address (if the student is not homeless) – is collected. But the student’s personal information cannot be disclosed to the public, nor can it be used to deny enrollment.

In addition to federal law, Washington state law contains a chapter (Revised Code of Washington 28A.642), which prohibits discrimination, including discrimination based on national origin.

Our state’s public education system exists to help our students learn. It does not function, nor will it function, as an arm of federal immigration services. OSPI is committed to our state’s constitutional requirement that students are to be educated “without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” OSPI will soon be updating our web site – – with more information, which will be translated into different languages. Please feel free to share this with parents.

Additional resources:

 Chris Reykdal
Superintendent of Public Instruction


In May 2016, the federal Education and Justice Departments issued guidance on transgender students. The guidance required that schools treat students “consistent with the student’s gender identity.” On Wednesday evening, that guidance was rescinded by the Education and Justice Departments.

Washington state law, though, continues to protect transgender students from discrimination in school, which includes names and pronouns, dress codes, student participation in sports and physical education, harassment, and students’ use of restrooms and locker rooms. The federal guidance will not affect state law.

A brief history:
In 2006, sexual orientation and gender identity were added as protected classes to the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Four years later, the Legislature passed a law (codified as Revised Code of Washington 28A.642) explicitly protecting students in Washington public schools against discrimination.

As a result of that law, OSPI in February 2012 issued formal guidelines entitled, “Prohibiting Discrimination in Washington Public Schools.” The guidelines specifically address access to restrooms and locker rooms:

  • On restrooms: “School districts should allow students to use the restroom that is consistent with their gender identity consistently asserted at school” (p. 30);
  • On locker rooms: “No student … should be required to use a locker room that conflicts with his or her gender identity” (p. 31).

School districts are required to comply with the guidelines – and have been doing so successfully for five years. The new guidance from the Education and Justice Departments states that “there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” In short, our state laws continue to protect our transgender students.

My job as Superintendent is to ensure every student in our state receives a high-quality education. Our state laws are explicit. We must not discriminate against our students, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Our state has a long and proud history of embracing differences, and I will not back down from that.

Chris Reykdal
Superintendent of Public Instruction

What Does Washington State Law Say About “All Means All” 

(thanks to ESD 113) 

Article IX of our state’s constitution says that: It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

Washington has compulsory education laws that require: All parents in this state of any child eight years of age and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides (RCW 28A.225.010) … and that it is the general policy of the state that the common schools shall be open to the admission of all persons who are five years of age and less than twenty-one years (RCW 28A.225.160

A school district shall not require proof of residency or any other information regarding an address for any child who is eligible by reason of age for the services of the school district if the child does not have a legal residence… and a school district shall enroll a child without a legal residence … at the request of the child or parent or guardian of the child. (RCW 28A.225.215)

OSPI has clarified residence as follows: … the term “student residence” means the physical location of a student’s principal abode—i.e., the home, house, apartment, facility, structure, or location, etc.—where the student lives the majority of the time. The following shall be considered in applying this section:

  1. The mailing address of the student—e.g., parent’s address or post office box—may be different than the student’s principal abode.

  2. The student’s principal abode may be different than the principal abode of the student’s parent(s).

  3. The lack of a mailing address for a student does not preclude residency under this section.

  4. If students are expected to reside at address for twenty consecutive days or more. (WAC 392–137–115)

Regarding Free and Reduced Price Meals

Thanks to our friends at WASA, we have some information from Senator Patty Murray’s office. Here’s the note sent from WASA Executive Director Dr. Bill Keim to their members:

 Good Morning Superintendents.

President Trump’s recent Executive Order regarding immigration has raised some questions regarding the free and reduced price meals program. Some schools have received requests from families to have their child removed from the list based on an assumption that it was illegal for them to receive the benefit if they weren’t US citizens. Raquel Crowley, Senator Murray’s Central Washington Director, was contacted for a clarification. She asked staff in Senator Murray’s office to research this issue and has provided the information in the email I’m forwarding. I hope you find this information helpful if similar questions arise in your district.

Here’s the email from Raquel Crowley, Senator Murray’s Central Washington Director: 


As you all know the free and reduced lunch program is not about immigration status, it is based on income and serving children and families that meet the criteria through income needs. The program by design is for assisting children obtain healthy nutritional food during the school day ( after school programs too) and addresses whole child services for the community as well as the school system. Our policy team reinforced the concept “ immigration status is not a factor in qualifying for free or reduced price school lunch/breakfast programs. Districts aren’t required to ask for it on the verification forms sent to a small sample size of parents, so the policy team doubts there is a way that the new administration could even identify students or parents of students who are undocumented if the intention is to target them.” Federal law clearly states that immigration status cannot be a factor for participation in the free and reduced lunch program. 8 USC 1615. Participation in the program is based largely on income-based needs to ensure children obtain healthy nutritional food during the school day. 

I hope this helps as we have been getting phone calls at our office as well and we are putting out the same message – that free and reduce lunch is not about immigration status, it is about feeding children who are eligible so no child goes hungry in the school day and is set for success with the support systems established. 

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. You can certainly email me if more developments arise or if an increase in query occurs. 

Raquel Ferrell Crowley | Central Washington Director

Senator Patty Murray
402 E. Yakima Avenue Suite 390| Yakima, WA | 98901 
O 509.453.7462 | F 509.453.7731


Immigrant & Refugee Guide for Educators

A guide was recently created by a collection of advocacy groups to help school staff better serve immigrant and refugee children. All public schools in Washington have a legal mandate to embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin. Learn about the tools and resources available to help protect and serve these vulnerable students. 

US Customs & Immigration (ICE) Sensitive Locations

From the Enforcement and Removal Operations website: 

 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have made available Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to supplement existing guidance concerning enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations and clarify what types of locations are covered by these policies. ICE and CBP conduct their enforcement actions consistent with the Department of Homeland Security’s November 2014 memorandum prioritizing the removal of national security, border security, and public safety threats. 

The ICE and CBP sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, provide that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action. DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.
Schools are classified as a sensitive location. Here's the bullet point (as of 1/30/2017) describing what qualifies.
 Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop;

Plyer v Doe

In short, this court case maintains that all students have a right to a K-12 education, regardless of immigration status. 

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