Frederick County public school students cannot be forced to disclose their citizenship status to county officials, the Maryland State Board of Education ruled Tuesday.
The board’s unanimous decision was a response to an October 2008 petition by the Frederick County Commissioners. The commissioners sought legal permission to include immigration status with other information in student records.
Proponents of the status check argue that the issue is not removing illegal immigrant students from the school system, but determining the amount those students cost taxpayers.
“Nobody is trying to deny anybody anything,” said Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, also a county commissioner. “It’s just that the taxpayers, the citizens, have a right to know the cost of educating the illegal community.”
Jenkins played a major role in other Frederick County immigration enforcement efforts, including the controversial policy of reporting illegal immigrants who have contact with police to federal authorities.
But school officials fear that requiring illegal students to disclose their status would have negative effects in the immigrant community, possibly driving those students out of schools altogether.
Officials on both sides agree that the number of immigrant students in Frederick County is rising, as evidenced by increases in English language courses for non-native speakers.
In 2007, 1,200 students participated in such classes, according to the annual Frederick County Public Schools Report. In 2008, that number increased to 1,346.