Southside Independent School District officials say they’re following state law by requiring guardians to show a Texas form of ID before allowing them inside schools. However, the Texas Education Code doesn’t require state-issued IDs. It gives districts the option of asking school visitors for government-issued photo IDs, but it doesn’t say that the ID has to be issued by Texas.
Dozens of parents and community members attended Southside Independent School District’s board meeting Thursday evening to ask for a change to district policy that makes it difficult for parents who aren’t U.S. citizens to access their children’s schools.
The policy requires parents to have a Texas driver’s license or state-issued ID to be in areas where other children are around.
A mother named Sandra, who asked not to give her last name, testified that she was barred from eating lunch with her son at his school because she didn’t have a Texas ID.
“I want to be part of his education. I want to be there every step of the way. But the district is not allowing me to do so at this time, and I would like that to change,” Sandra told the board, brushing away tears.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent a letter to Southside Friday warning the district that its ID policy is unconstitutional because it treats parents differently based on their race, national origin and immigration status.
“There is no justification, either in the Texas Education Code or in the technology used by the district, for treating immigrant parents differently from other parents and for limiting students’ contact with their parents during school-sponsored events,” MALDEF Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales said in a statement.
Community organizers from the COPS/Metro Alliance said they’ve worked with Southside administrators for months in hopes of changing the policy. They said they decided to take the matter to the board because parents continued to be denied access to their children’s schools.
“(It’s a) one door open, one door closes kind of situation,” said Graciela Lopez, a COPS/Metro leader with El Carmen Catholic Church and a mother in the Southside school district.
“We’re asking for Superintendent (Mark) Eads to meet with us, to have a conversation with us, to allow the parents to be a part of their children’s education,” Lopez said. “We want to work with him because the security of our children is always priority.”
Texas requires proof that someone is in the country legally before the state will issue identification cards.
Southside spokesperson Randy Escamilla said Thursday that the district worked with COPS/Metro to help parents obtain Texas IDs last semester, and he thought the issue had been resolved.
“We understand that not every family has these IDs, but we have to follow the laws of the state of Texas,” Escamilla said. “The law states that in order to gain access to a campus anywhere in the state of Texas, visitors must have a state-issued driver’s license or a state-issued ID.”
But according to the Texas Education Code, school districts “may require” photo identification. They don’t have to do so. The law also states that the ID can be “issued by a governmental entity.” It doesn’t say the ID has to be issued by Texas.
Other local school districts, including San Antonio ISD and Harlandale ISD, have policies requiring government-issued IDs, but they don’t require those IDs to be state issued.
COPS/Metro leaders said late Thursday they believe Southside board President Dolores Sendejo was receptive to their requests. She texted them and thanked them for attending the board meeting.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.