Can I stay in the same school if I go into foster care?

AB490 made it California law that children who have a change in placement through the dependency system are ensured the opportunity to stay in their school of original enrollment through the end of the school year.  Beyond that, AB490 also establishes that a child’s school of origin (the school that the child was last enrolled in) should be a top priority when placing a child in foster care because of a primary interest in educational stability.

AB490 also includes provisions for immediate enrollment, credit protection and access to extracurricular activities for foster youth.

How can I get lawful immigration status?

There are many ways to obtain lawful immigration status.  Each one depends on the facts of your case.  Lawful immigration status can sometimes mean just a work permit and other times it means a green card.

How do I get a legal guardian?

Getting a guardianship is done through the Superior Court in your county.  If the child is under 12 years old, the proposed guardian can ask the court to be made the child’s guardian. If the child is 12 or older, the child can ask the court to appoint a guardian.

To get a guardian, a child over age 12 or the proposed guardian fills out the court’s forms.  The forms need to be filed in court and copies need to be provided to parents (or person who has legal custody of the child) and sent via mail to grandparents and any sibling over the age of 12.  Parents need to either consent to the guardianship or be provided a special notice if they do not consent. There will be a home investigation conducted of the proposed guardian’s home and a background check of the proposed guardian and any adult over the age of 18 living in the home.  The court then holds a hearing.  At the hearing, the judge will decide if the guardianship is in the child’s best interest.

How long does a guardianship last? What if it doesn’t work out?

A guardianship lasts until the child turns 18, gets married, is legally emancipated, or is adopted.  A guardianship can also be ended by a court if the child (who is 12 or older), the guardian, or some other interested party asks for it to be ended, and if the judge finds that the guardianship is no longer in the child’s best interest. For information on when parents reunify with their child, click here.  If the guardianship isn’t working out, whether or not LSC was involved with the initial guardianship case, call LSC’s Warmline for help.

What does a guardianship mean for the child’s relationship with their parents?

The child’s parents are still their parents – a guardianship doesn’t change that.  Guardianship suspends parents’ ability to make decisions about the child’s life because the guardian raises the child as his/her own.  The child can still see their parents, but the child and guardian will decide when and how often these visits will happen.  A court can also determine when a child sees the child’s parents by making a visitation order.  Also, a guardianship can be terminated by the Court at any time if a parent is able to resume taking care of the child, the child wants to reunify with a parent, and it is in the child’s best interest to return to the care of a parent.

What if I need help with other areas of my life?

If you are an undocumented youth and have questions about paths to legal residency, or are at risk of being kicked out of school, go to our Immigration or Education pages on this site to learn more about LSC’s other services. You can also call LSC’s Warmline for information about our other services.

What is a legal guardianship, and what does it mean?

A legal guardianship is when a judge decides that a person other than a child’s biological parent will have custody of the child.  Guardianship gives an adult the authority to make decisions for that child that a parent would normally make.  The guardian has the right to raise the child without the child’s parents getting involved. A legal guardianship does not terminate the parent’s parental rights but instead suspends the parental rights.

What is emancipation and how does it work?

Emancipation is a legal process that frees a child who is between the ages of 14-17 from the custody and control of their parent(s) or guardian. Minors can be emancipated if they enter into a valid marriage, are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, or have received a declaration of emancipation from a Court (Family Code Section 7002). The requirements to receive a declaration of emancipation include:

  • Child is at least 14 years old
  • Child willingly doesn’t live with his/her parents or guardian, and the parents or guardian are okay with this or are not actively trying to get the child back
  • Child manages his/her own finances
  • Child’s source of income is legal
  • Emancipation would be in the child’s best interests

For more information about the process of emancipation, click here. Also call LSC’s Warmline with any questions.

What will the guardianship hearing be like?

Guardianship hearings are all different, so there’s no way to know exactly what the hearing would be like.  If the child’s parents, grandparents, and brothers and sisters over the age of 12 agree to the guardianship, the hearings are usually simple.  If someone objects to the guardianship, it will be more complicated.

The older the child is, the more likely the judge is to consider what the child’s wants.  The judge may ask the child if the child wants the proposed guardian to be his/her guardian and why.  The judge may ask the child or the proposed guardian other questions as the judge tries to figure out what is best for the child.

Who can be a child’s guardian? What does a guardian do?

A person over 18 years old can be a legal guardian for a person under 18.  Guardians are usually relatives or family friends – responsible people who the child knows well.  The guardian is responsible for the child’s care including but not limited to:

  • Proving a safe place to live
  • Making sure the child is clothed and fed
  • Enrolling the child in school and making sure the child goes to school
  • Regularly bringing the child to see a doctor and dentist

Guardians should be kind and loving toward the child and provide appropriate guidance on learning life skills.

Why might a child need a legal guardian? Can a child live informally with another person?

A child can legally live with other adults without a guardianship if the child has his/her parent’s permission. Sometimes that kind of arrangement is fine; but some young people need a formal guardianship because their parents treat them badly and they fear that their parents will force them to return home.  Guardianships can also help young people when their parents can’t care for them, because of lack of money, drug abuse, or being incarcerated.

Even if it’s fine with the child’s parents to live with another adult, it may be hard for that adult to meet all the child’s needs without legal authority.  For example:

  • Health insurance companies won’t cover a minor on an adult’s policy unless the adult is a parent or guardian
  • Some medical providers won’t care for a minor without the signature of a parent or guardian
  • Some government benefits (welfare) rules require a minor to live with a parent, close relative, or guardian to receive aid
  • Some school issues require a parent or guardian’s involvement, especially issues around special education
  • Eligibility for school financial aid (i.e. FAFSA)

Guardianships aren’t always necessary.  If you will be away from a parent for only a short time or your parents want you to be there, the adult you’re living with can sometimes take care of your needs with a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, a form your caregiver can sign.  LSC can help you figure out if you need a guardianship or if the Affidavit will work for you.

Do I have to be immunized to attend school?

Yes. Students who have not been properly immunized according to the Health and Safety Code will be excluded from attending school (California Education Code Section 48216). To find immunization requirements, refer to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 120325) of Part 2 of Division 105 of the Health and Safety Code.

i. Documentation showing that immunization is unsafe to the student due to a current physical condition of the student, indicating the nature and duration of the condition
ii. Immunization is in conflict with personal beliefs. Parents in this position must sign an affidavit on the back of the child’s CSIR to receive this exemption. (See http://www.cdph.ca.gov/)

Do I have to pass the CAHSEE in order to graduate?

All California public school students must satisfy the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) requirement, in addition to other state and local requirements, in order to receive a high school diploma.

The CAHSEE requirement can be satisfied by passing the exam with accommodations or modifications.  Accommodations may include such things as Braille transcriptions for the visually impaired and extra time beyond the school day to complete the exam.  Modifications include for example the use of a calculator on the math portion of the exam.  In order to qualify for these accommodations or modifications, there must be documentation (including a section of an IEP or 504 plan) indicating the need for these changes.

A student is eligible for a waiver request if they received the equivalent of a passing score with the accommodation or modification.

There are test variations available to English learners, including extra time at the end of the day and permitted use of a translation glossary.

Why should I talk to an attorney about immigration relief options?

It’s important to talk to a qualified attorney or accredited representative and not just seek advice online or from family members or other consultants in the community (like notaries) because the immigration laws are very complicated and not everyone knows all of the laws and legal options.  Also, some people are dishonest and want to trick you into paying them more money than you should.  If you file an application and are not eligible or if you give false information to immigration, your application can be rejected and you can be placed into removal proceedings and deported.

How do I get copies of my student records?

A school district may permit access to pupil records to any person for whom a parent of the pupil has given written consent specifying the records to be released (California Education Code Section 49075(a)).

A student does not need parental consent to view student records if 16 years old or having completed the 10th grade.

To obtain your student records, contact your school directly.  The District must provide you a copy of your student records within five days of a written request for the records.

None of my family has legal status/papers – am I still eligible for relief?

It’s important to talk to an attorney who can tell you what your legal options might be.  Some kinds of immigration benefits depend on your age or how long it has been since you came to the U.S., so it is best to talk to an attorney as soon as possible, even if you are young and still being supported by your parents and don’t really need a work permit right now.

How do I make a complaint about discrimination?

Here is information on how to file a complaint form with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  Main website: http://www.ed.gov/ocr.

San Francisco’s DOE Office of Civil Rights is the regional enforcement office which services all of California. Parents, caregivers or students can contact the office to discuss their situation at: (415) 486-5555.  Written complaints may be sent to this office at:
50 Beale Street, Suite 7200
San Francisco, CA 94105-1813
Fax: (415) 486-5570
Email: OCR.SanFrancisco@ed.gov

Anyone can file a civil rights complaint, not just a victim of the discrimination.  A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged incident.  A complaint may be filed online with the form available, or a complaint can be made through a letter.  The letter must include the following information:

  • Name, address, and phone number of complainant
  • Information about the person/class of persons injured by discrimination
  • Name and location of institution that committed discrimination
  • Description of the incident with sufficient detail

OCR will promptly acknowledge receipt of a complaint and will contact you by letter or telephone to let you know whether they will proceed further with the complaint. OCR has a variety of options for resolving complaints, including facilitated resolutions and investigations. OCR does not act as an advocate for either party during the process.

OCR does not handle cases that are being addressed by another agency or within a school’s or college’s formal grievance procedure.  You do not need to file a uniform complaint with the school district in order to file an OCR complaint.

What happens when a child is detained by immigration authorities without a parent or legal guardian?

Children are detained by immigration authorities in different ways, including
– crossing the border
– through raids on workplaces or homes
– after being arrested

When a child is apprehended by themselves (not with their parent or legal guardian) they are usually considered unaccompanied. Unaccompanied immigrant children under age 18 must be placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the Department Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours of their apprehension by immigration officials. They will also be placed in removal proceedings, which means they will need to appear before an immigration judge who will decide if they can stay in the U.S.

How do I make a complaint about facilities, teacher credentialing, or school books?

California requires that all public school students have books and learning materials, schools that are clean and safe, and qualified teachers who provide appropriate instruction. If these needs aren’t met, anyone can file a complaint. For more information, visit www.decentschools.org, which is a site dedicated to the outcome of this case and how to file complaints.

Complaint forms can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) website or should be available at your school. They are to be filed with the principal of your school or the designee of the district superintendent. The complaint must be resolved and a report written within 60 days of receipt of the complaint. The person who files a complaint should be informed of the right to appeal the decision by contacting the CDE.
i. Textbooks and instructional materials

      1. No access to them
      2. In condition too poor to use
      3. Only received photocopied portions because of shortage, and as such only have part of a whole

ii. Facility conditions: urgent condition posing threat to health or safety (i.e. gas leak, ventilation issues, non-functioning heating, unhygienic bathrooms, etc.)
iii. Teacher vacancy or mis-assignment

How do I make a complaint against a teacher?

You can access a complaint form online. Visit www.ctc.ca.gov and on the left hand side of the webpage, there is a link called “Report Educator Misconduct.” If you go there, the third link should be “Public Reporting- Complaints.”

Note: the complaint must be a first-hand report, meaning the person who witnessed or heard the misconduct directly must file the report.

The Division of Professional Practices investigates allegations of misconduct. The Committee of Credentials reviews the allegations and may recommend adverse action against a credential or application. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing votes whether to accept the recommendations of the Committee.

How do I make a complaint against an administrator or other school district employee?

Every school district has a different process for submitting complaints. In order to file this kind of complaint, you must comply with Uniform Complaint Procedures.  You can either file using a complaint form created by the district or by submitting a complaint letter.  Visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cp/uc/ for more information about the procedures and for some sample forms.

In San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), parents may report concerns to the district’s Office of Family Voice at (415) 241-6150.

The SFUSD uniform complaint form is online as well as the policy and procedures used by the district to investigate and resolve complaints related to the following: Discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying based on disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation.

Parents/caregivers should send complaints to:

Office of Equity
555 Franklin St., Room 306
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 355-7334
Fax: (415) 355-7333

In Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the Ombudsperson is responsible for investigating discrimination complaints. Visit http://www.ousd.org/Domain/121 for more information about the procedures and for a sample form. Parents/caregivers should send complaints to:

Office of the Ombudsperson
Attn: Mr. Gabriel Valenzuela, Ombudsperson/Title IX Coordinator
1000 Broadway Avenue, Suite 680
Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 879-4281
Fax: (510) 879-3678

Once a Uniform Complaint is filed, the Local Education Agency (LEA) is responsible for resolving the complaint and writing a report within 60 days of receiving the complaint.  The person who files the complaint must be given the opportunity to present relevant information to the LEA for this report.  The person who files the complaint should also be told of the right to appeal the LEA decision by contacting the California Department of Education (CDE).

I already dropped out of school but I want to go back. What do I do?

The Opportunity Education Program is an option that provides support to help students overcome learning barriers, such as those that might prompt students to drop out of school in the first place.  This program provides a supportive environment with specialized curriculum, instruction, guidance and counseling, psychological services, and tutorial assistance.  Normally, it is not a permanent placement, but a short-term system that will help students transition back into the classroom.  For more information, please visit the California Department of Education Website, and visit the Opportunity Education Program link within the Educational Options page.  http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/eo/oe/.

I’m homeless and living in a shelter or transitional housing. What are my rights with regard to my education?

Homeless students have a right to enroll in and attend school, and just like any other student to participate and succeed.  The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines homeless children/youth as those who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”  This assessment is determined on a case-by-case basis. Examples include, sharing the housing of other persons, living in a hotel, motel, trailer park, living in an emergency or transitional shelter, and awaiting foster care placement.  If a child satisfies any of those three conditions, that child is eligible for assistance.

Homeless children are excused from the strict enrollment requirements, such as updated immunization and school records from prior schools.  Any school is required to enroll a student immediately, and then help that student provide all necessary materials.

The National Center for Homeless Education describes homeless education issues in more detail.  Please consult http://www.serve.org/nche/index.php.

The state coordinator for homeless education in California is Leanne M. Wheeler.  Her email address is lwheeler@cde.ca.gov.

I’m undocumented, can I still go to school? What should I do if the school won’t let me attend?

All undocumented children have the right to go to public school in the U.S.  For help enrolling in school, click here for a list of school district offices.

If your school won’t let you attend specifically because you are an undocumented immigrant, please contact:

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, San Francisco
131 Steuart Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: 415-543-9444
Email: info@lccr.com

Is corporal punishment legal in California?

No. California Education Code Sections 49000 and 49001 prohibit corporal punishment in control of public schools.  Corporal punishment is defined in this code as “willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil.”

What are residency requirements?

Students throughout California enjoy the right to apply for enrollment at schools outside their designated school attendance boundaries: any school in their district of residence, the district in which a parent is employed, or a neighboring district that has chosen to accept inter-district transfers.  This system of choice varies in each district, so consult your district for its regulation requirements.

When enrolling a student in school, school districts will ask you for a copy of the child’s birth certificate and a copy of the student’s last report card (or other documentation indicating educational standing).  They will also ask you for three documents that will prove residency in that district.  Such documents include the following:

  1. PG&E bill
  2. Utility bill
  3. Garbage collection bill
  4. Telephone bill (other than cell phone)
  5. Cable bill
  6. Bank Statement
  7. Paycheck Stub
  8. Drivers license
  9. Action Letter from Social Services
  10. Berkeley Housing Authority Documentation

Some school districts might have their own additional requirements.  For instance, Berkeley Unified School District requires a Parent Preference form to be completed by the student’s parent(s).  Please contact your school district for their own requirements.

What are the rules for police in schools?

Police can interview students in school without parental permission, but must stop if a student asks for a parent to be present.  Police must only notify a parent if the child is being removed from the custody of the school to the custody of the police.

SAN FRANCISCO EXCEPTION: under an agreement between SFUSD and SFPD, there must be a reasonable attempt to notify the parent and allow them to come to the school before a student is interviewed by police. Same rules for change of custody apply.

What is an inter-district transfer? How can they be rescinded?

An inter-district transfer is when a student and his parents/guardians decide to enroll a student in a school other than the designated school in their attendance area.  It must be approved by both school districts (the one the student wishes to leave and the one the student wishes to enter into).  The agreement may last for a maximum of five consecutive years and may include conditions. It is within the authority of either the home district or the receiving district to revoke an inter-district transfer agreement at any time for any reason they deem appropriate.

What will happen to me if I am truant or tardy?

The California school system takes truancy very seriously.  They define a truant as a student missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year must be classified as a truant and reported to the proper school authority.  If a student is truant, the parents/guardians of that student will be notified, and California schools make it the responsibility of the child and the parents to correct this behavior.

Both a student and his/her parents can be prosecuted for truancy.  Penalties against parents apply when any parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any student fails to compel the student to attend school. The penalties against parents become progressively severe with a second and third conviction. The penalties for parents of a truant read as follows:

  1. Upon a first conviction, by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).
  2. Upon a second conviction, by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
  3. Upon a third or subsequent conviction, if the person has willfully refused to comply with this section, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500). In lieu of the fines prescribed in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3), the court may order the person to be placed in a parent education and counseling program

When can I drop out of school?

California law requires that students attend school until the age of 18.  California takes drop out prevention very seriously, and does not promote dropping out of school at any age.  However, there are many alternatives to traditional comprehensive high school programs that will fulfill the same requirement.  Please visit the California Department of Education Website, Educational Options page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/eo/.

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