The Education Department Urges Sensitivity While Teaching Undocumented Youth


In response to the growing number of undocumented immigrants enrolled in public high schools and colleges across the country, the U.S. Department of Education has released a resource guide for teachers of high school and college undocumented students. 

The guide provides an overview of the rights of undocumented students, tips for educators on supporting undocumented youth, and information on federal financial aid, scholarships, and other federally-funded adult education programs. 

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In a letter accompanying the guide, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stresses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe that mandates a public education for all children — with or without legal status. "As a nation of immigrants, America has benefits from the vitality and enthusiasm brought to its shores by those seeking a better life," he wrote, according to U.S. News. "And education is a key pathway to success for many new Americans."

The 63-page playbook from the Education Department asks that teachers employ sensitivity while dealing with undocumented youth, as they can experience high levels of "acculturative stress" from immigration-related issues.

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"The development of trusting relationships with educators is especially important for undocumented youth," the document reads. "Affirming attitudes toward students' backgrounds and cultures may help to facilitate greater mutual trust."

It also reminds teachers not to make assumptions about students' immigration status because of ethnicity or language spoken. 

Delegated Deputy Education Secretary John King, who will take over for Duncan in December, unveiled the guide at San Francisco State University in California. "We know undocumented youth face unique challenges," he said. "We also know that educators and other caring adults in schools and colleges can play a major role in helping all students, including undocumented students, to achieve at the highest levels." 

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About this author

Cristina Arreola, Associate Editor

Cristina Mari Arreola is the Associate Editor. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to New York City. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or frantically reading a novel from her (extremely lengthy) reading list. See what she's reading now on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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