You are here

Student/Family Rights to an Education

This section provides guidance to increase awareness on civil rights that protect students and families.

Information on the webpage is not legal advice. Policies and statutory requirements change, and the transition webpages may not have the most current policy information.

Prepared by Western Educational Equity Assistance Center April 2019

Legal references

  • 1964 Title IV
    • “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal assistance. All federal agencies that provide grants of assistance are required to enforce Title VI” “Examples of discrimination covered by Title VI include racial harassment, school segregation, and denial of language services to English learners.”
  • 1972 Title IX
    • “Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’”
  • 1973 Section 504 Rehabilitation Act
    • Section 504 is a Federal law that prohibits disability discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance. All public schools and school districts, as well as all public charter schools and magnet schools that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department must comply with Section 504.
  • Plyler v. Doe
    • “The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that citizenship or immigration status of students, parents, or guardians cannot be used to bar students from public schools (Plyer v. Doe, 1982)” issue04.html+
      • The Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that local school districts cannot deny admission to students who are not legally admitted into the United States. The court noted that such actions would impose a “lifetime of hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status. The stigma of illiteracy will mark them for the rest of their lives. By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation(457 U.S. 202) (1982).”
      • As a result of this Supreme court decision and state statutory provisions, the Commissioner of Education has determined that students who are residents of a Colorado school district may not be denied admission to the public schools based on their lawful or unlawful immigration status.
      • “Determination of legality of a student’s immigration status is not a duty of the local school district nor is it necessary in determining the residency of a child. Undocumented children have the same right to attend public schools as do U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (Letter to Superintendents of Schools, Directors of BOCES, School Principals, and Other Interested Persons, January 1999).”

Definition of terms when working with immigrant students


Non U.S. citizens


Unaccompanied minor of non U.S. citizen status

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

  • What is DACA? (Federal information)
    • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals- “certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization.  Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.” ( daca)
  • DACA (State information)
    • DACA is a federal policy set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department that allows qualifying young people to apply for a renewable, two- year period of deferred action and work authorization (

Non-U.S. citizens

  • Who are Non-U.S. citizens:
  • “Dreamers”
    • “The term ‘Dreamer’ has been used to describe young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, who have lived and gone to school here, and who in many cases identify as American. The term DREAMer originally took its name from the bill in Congress, but it has a double meaning about the undocumented youth who have big hopes and dreams for a better future.” the-dream-act-and-who-are-the-dreamers
    • The term “Dreamer” can be used to describe any undocumented young person who views the United States as their home. However, caution should be taken in assuming that all children, youth and families who are undocumented immigrants understand and identify with the term.
  • Unaccompanied minor of non U.S. citizen status
    • “An unaccompanied alien child (UAC) is one who has no lawful immigration status in the United States; has not attained 18 years of age, and with respect to whom; 1) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or 2) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody. alien-children
    • Please note that an unaccompanied minor can also be a U.S. born individual who has lived in another country, and before the age of 18, has returned to the U.S. alone or with a non-parent individual and who is now in the country of their birth. These unaccompanied minors are U.S. citizens.