Wake Ed

Wake County praised for quickly registering unaccompanied immigrant children for school

The Wake County school system gets grief from some parents about what it takes to get registered, but an attorney who works with border children gives the state’s largest school district high marks.

Matt Ellinwood, an attorney with the N.C. Justice Center, has helped the sponsors of unaccompanied immigrant children register for school around the Triangle. He said Wake County has done a better job than other districts at processing the registrations to get the children enrolled.

“Wake County has done a good job of enrolling students quickly,” Ellinwood said. “They understand the importance of not delaying enrolling any child.”

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students are guaranteed the right to attend public schools regardless of their immigration status. But Ellinwood said that some school districts put up road blocks that have cost students months out of class.

Lisa Luten, a Wake schools’ spokeswoman, pointed to the work of the district’s Center for International Enrollment in helping these students get enrolled.

“They are dedicated to helping our international families who are moving or relocating to our school system,” she said. “We value the diversity in our school system.”

According to the latest figures, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement relocated 188 unaccompanied children to sponsors in Wake County between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. During that same time period, North Carolina received 1,648 of the 43,419 unaccompanied children relocated around the country after illegally trying to cross the southern border.

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