All information found on this page can be found at: https://www.state.nj.us/education/bilingual/policy/faq.htm
Q. I and/or my child is undocumented. Can I register my child for school?
A. Yes. Under federal law, all children in the United States are entitled to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of their race, color, national origin, citizenship, or immigration status of their parents/guardian. (https://www.justice.gov/crt/dear-colleague-letter-rights-allchildren-enroll-public-schools; Plyer v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982)).
Q. Must a district register unaccompanied minors?
A. Yes. (See response to question above). For more information and resources on unaccompanied minors, click here.
Q. Who is responsible for helping me to register my child?
A. School officials are obligated under federal law to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing in their districts. This means school districts must make registration and enrollment processes accessible to all parents/guardians. (https://www.justice.gov.sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2014/05/08/plylerletter.pdf).
Q. My school district is requesting state identification or a social security number to register my child. Is this permissible?
A. No. School districts are prohibited from requesting any documents that may reveal a parent’s or a family’s immigration status, ask questions of students or parents that may expose their undocumented status, or conduct any practices that may hinder or discourage parents from registering and enrolling their child in school. (https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2014/05/08/plylerletter.pdf)
Q. Our family is homeless. Can I still enroll my child in school even if I do not have a proof of residence?
A. Yes. The federal McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and state regulations at N.J.A.C. 6A:17 Education of Homeless Children and Students in State Facilities, mandate immediate enrollment of students who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate housing and are considered homeless. School districts may not require that students experiencing homelessness present residency affidavits as a condition of enrollment. Specifically, students experiencing homelessness are presumed to be best served by their school of origin, except when contrary to the request of the child’s or youth’s parent or guardian, or the youth in the case of an unaccompanied youth. As such, the federal definition of the school of origin, which is the school the homeless child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled, has been expanded to include preschools and “receiving schools.”
Q. My nephew/niece is living with me and I am not his/her legal guardian. His/her parents are overseas. Can I enroll him/her in my local school district?
A. Yes. (See response to question above). Your niece’s/nephew’s circumstance may be considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. If the student does not meet McKinney-Vento eligibility requirements, the student may be enrolled pursuant to N.J. Student Residency regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.2). Student Residency regulations, include considerations for the Education of Homeless Children and Students in State Facilities (N.J.A.C. 6A:17), specifically the determination of homeless status (N.J.A.C. 6A:17-2.2). Moreover, a student is eligible to attend the school district pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1.b, if he or she is kept in the home of a person other than the student’s parent or guardian, and the person is domiciled in the school district and is supporting the student without repayment as if the student were his or her own child. Additional information may be required in determining which regulations will guide the enrollment of the students.
Q. My child has not received his/her vaccinations. Can I still enroll my child in the school district?
A. Yes. Schools must not delay or deny enrollment based on their non-receipt of medical information, although attendance at school may be deferred while awaiting immunization records (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-4.1(h); N.J.A.C. 8:57-4). Students entering a NJ school from out of state or out of country are allowed up to 30 days to provide proof of immunization history before their provisional status begins.
Q. My school district will not accept my child’s foreign transcripts. Is this permissible?
A. No. In addition to the federal law, New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.3) also prohibits the barring of any student from public elementary and secondary schools on the basis of immigration/visa status, except for students on F-1 visas. Districts should continue to enroll all students who are between the ages of 5 and 20 who are domiciled in the district or who are otherwise entitled to attend pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:38.1, and the implementing regulations, N.J.A.C. 6A:22-3.2, et seq.
Q. My child completed the 9th grade in my home country. The school district told me she has to repeat 9th grade because her credits do not count. Is this permissible?
A. No. Specific to the N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.3(a-b), each district must have a policy for enrolling ELLs, which includes the home language survey, screening (interview with parent/students), and review of previous/available academic records, including native language assessments to determine appropriate placement. Therefore, a district must have a written policy for credit transfer and transcript translations to guide appropriate grade placement and program services.
Q. My child is 17 and completed high school in our native country. Can I still enroll my child in a high school in New Jersey so that he/she can obtain her high school diploma in the U.S.?
A. According to N.J.S.A 18A:38-1, public schools shall be free of charge to any person over 5 and under 20 years of age, who is domiciled within the school district. Furthermore, school districts may not discriminate based on national origin. Thus, A child who is under 20 years of age and has completed high school in his/her native country may be entitled to enroll in a high school in New Jersey. However, this is a fact-sensitive inquiry. The district must determine if the student’s education in his/her native country was sufficient to meet the goals embodied in a New Jersey state-endorsed high school diploma. In a 2009 case, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education set forth a non-exhaustive list of factors that public school districts may consider in making this determination. Only if the district concludes that the student has not received the requisite education is the student entitled to enroll in the district to obtain a New Jersey state endorsed diploma.
Parental Consent Law
Q. What are the provisions of the parental consent amendment to the bilingual education law?
A. The parental consent amendment to the bilingual education law, which went into effect on July 1, 1996, states that parents of English language learners have the right to decline bilingual education program services. Prior to the enactment of this law, parents could challenge a district's decision to enroll their child in a bilingual education program, but could not decline services without following an appeal process.
Q. Is parental consent only for bilingual education programs or does it also include ESL-only programs and English language services? (See appendix for definitions.)
A. The intent of the parental consent amendment is to apply to all parents of ELLs. Therefore, the law applies to parents of students eligible to be served by part-time and full-time bilingual/ESL programs, ESL-only programs or English language services (ESL) programs.
Q. Does the parental consent amendment apply only to ELLs enrolled in the program after July 1, 1996?
A. No. The parental consent amendment applies to allELLs regardless of when enrolled.
Q. Do parents have the right to decline their child's enrollment in bilingual education programs and choose ESL-only program services for their child?
A. Yes. Parents may decline enrollment of their child in a bilingual education program and choose ESL-only program services.
Q. Can parents decline enrollment of their child in an ESL-only program?
A. Yes. Parents have the right to decline enrollment of their child in a bilingual/ESL program, ESL-only program or English language services program.
Q. If a parent declines bilingual/ESL services during school registration, may they request these instructional services at a later date?
A. Yes, however, it is the decision of the local district to determine whether to enroll the child mid-year or at what point during the school year such enrollment could occur, based on the needs of the student.
Q. Must a district inform the parents of all ELLs about the requirements of the parental consent amendment?
A. Yes. The district must notify parents that their child has been identified for enrollment in a bilingual, ESL or ELS program. Each school year, parents of all English language learners should be informed of their children's status and of their rights to decline program participation. For ELLs who are currently enrolled in a program, this notification should take place after the students are tested for language proficiency at the end of the school year. For newly enrolled students, such notice should occur at the beginning of the school year.
Q. What information should be shared with parents regarding the availability of bilingual/ESL/ELS services and their benefits for English language learners?
A. Annually, districts should provide parents with a description of the bilingual/ESL/ELS programs in order to assist parents in making an informed decision regarding their child's enrollment in the program. This description should also provide information regarding policies relative to ELLs including exemption from standardized tests in English and eligibility for the Special Review Assessment (SRA) in the native language for high school students.
Parents should be informed about the new Core Curriculum Content Standards and assessment process that began in 1997-98 and includes English language learners.
Q. May a parent remove an ELL from a bilingual/ESL program before the end of the school year?
A. During the first three years of a pupil's participation in a program, the parent or guardian may only remove a pupil at the end of the school year. If the parent or guardian wishes to remove the pupil prior to the end of the school year, he/she must have the approval of the county superintendent of schools.
Q. When is the county superintendent informed about the parents' request to remove their ELL child from a bilingual/ESL program or English language services?
A. The county superintendent of schools should be informed about a parent's intent to remove his/her ELL child from a bilingual/ESL program only if the parent wishes to remove a student from a program before the end of a school year. In such cases, the county superintendent will review the case and may determine to maintain the student in the program, if it is in the best interest of the student.
Q. Do the ELLs stay in the program until the end of the appeal to the county office of education and Commissioner of Education?
A. Yes, ELLs will remain enrolled in the program until the appeal process is completed.
Q. If a parent does not want his/her child in a program, regardless of the student's English language skills, is there an appeal process for school districts?
A. No. If a parent refuses enrollment of a English language learner in a bilingual/ESL program, ESL-only program or English language services program, then the child cannot be enrolled in the program. The law and administrative code do not allow for an appeal process for school districts. Once the student is enrolled, he/she may only be removed at the end of each school year, during the first three years of a pupil's participation in a program.
Q. How does this law apply to a special education student whose Individualized Education Plan (IEP) requires bilingual or ESL services?
A. If a parent of a special education student disagrees with the IEP, the parent or the district may request mediation or due process to protect the rights of the child.
Q. Will districts that currently implement bilingual programs for small populations be required to maintain the program if the enrollment falls below 20 students of the same language group?
A. No. If, due to parents' declining services, the number of students in a bilingual program falls below the requirement for a full-time program, the district has the option of continuing to provide a bilingual education program for any language classification with fewer than 20 children (N.J.S.A. 18A 35-18et seq.). The district can also apply to the department for approval of an ESL-only program.
Special Education and ELLs
Q. Can students be referred and/or evaluated for special education services while receiving bilingual/ESL services?
A. Yes, neither federal nor state regulations prohibit a student who is receiving ESL services from being evaluated. According to New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) 6A:14-3.4(f), "An initial evaluation shall consist of a multi-disciplinary assessment in all areas of suspected disability. Such evaluation shall include at least two assessments and shall be conducted by at least two members of the child study team in those areas in which they have appropriate training or are qualified through their professional licensure or educational certification and other specialists in the area of disability as required or as determined necessary. For further information on referral and evaluation please refer to N.J.A.C. 6A:14.3.4(f).
Q. Can students receiving special education services receive bilingual/ESL services?
A. Yes, a student who is determined eligible for special education and related services or eligible for speech-language services can continue to receive bilingual/ESL services. Districts should consider embedding special education services in the existing bilingual/ESL classes in order to provide the services in the general education setting.
Q. Can bilingual/ESL students receive speech-language services?
A. Yes, according to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.6, "eligible for speech-language services" means a speech and/or language disorder as follows: A speech disorder in articulation, phonology, fluency, voice, or any combination, unrelated todialect, cultural differences or the influence of aforeign language, which adversely affects a student's educational performance.
Q. What should a school district do if they can't find a bilingual child study team member to complete a child study team evaluation?
A. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.4(f)1 requires that evaluations be conducted in the language or form most likely to yield accurate information...unless it is not feasible to do so. Therefore, a school district should make extensive efforts to locate a bilingual child study team member. The school district may contract for services from another local school district or an approved clinic or agency. A list of bilingual child study team professionals is available on the following website: http://www.nj.gov/njded/bilingual/resources/cst/.
Additional resources that should be considered by the school district include the recruitment of bilingual paraprofessionals and the use of bilingual community professionals and bilingual professionals in the district. In all instances, the school district must train personnel in the assessment process and the role of interpreters at meetings.
Q. If a bilingual/ESL student is referred for special education, how should the parent be notified?
A. Before a Meeting: Parental involvement through the referral and evaluation process is important and districts should make every effort to ensure parental participation at meetings.
A. After a Meeting: Written notice must be provided to the parents within 15 days following a meeting of the IEP team. According to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.4: a) Written notice to the parent shall be provided and parent conferences required by this chapter shall be conducted in the language used for communication by the parent and student unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.
Foreign language interpreters or translators and sign language interpreters for the deaf shall be provided, when necessary, by the district board of education at no cost to the parent.
If the native language is not a written language, the district board of education shall take steps to ensure that:
The notice is translated orally or by other means to the parent in his or her native language or other mode of communication;
That the parent understands the content of the notice; and
There is written documentation that the requirements of (b)1 and 2 above have been met.
Q. How should special education eligibility be determined for English language learners?
A. First, determine the dominant language of the child. While the NJDOE does not mandate or endorse any particular assessment, examples include the Brigance Screening, Language Assessment Scale, IDEA Proficiency Test, Bilingual Verbal Abilities Test, or Woodcock-Munoz Test. For additional resources you may consult the Center for Applied Linguistics Foreign Language Assessment Directory at www.cal.org/calwebdb/flad.
Once the dominant language is determined, evaluations should be conducted in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:3.4(f). If it is determined that the native language is dominant, then testing should be in the native language. If tests are unavailable in student's native language, then use informal assessment measures (language sample, oral story retelling). According to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.5(b),
"In making a determination of eligibility for special education and related services, a student shall not be determined eligible if the determinant factor is due to a lack of instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading instruction, or math or due to limited English proficiency."
Additionally, according to N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.4(g), "…additional programs and services shall be designed to meet the special needs of eligible ELLs and include, but are not limited to, remedial instruction through Title 1 programs; special education; school-to-work programs; computer training and talented education services."
Q. What are some other areas to consider when providing instruction to students who have limited English proficiency and are either classified or referred for an evaluation?
A. Consider including bilingual or ESL professionals as part of the IEP team and solicit their input when considering the language needs of students with limited English proficiency.
Contact your district's parent advisory group to better understand the needs of parents whose children have limited English proficiency and are receiving special education services.
Utilize the district's pre-referral intervention system such as the Intervention and Referral Services committee (I&RS), Response to Intervention (RTI) or multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). For more information on providing interventions to ELL can be found at http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/diversity/englishlanguagelearners or http://www.wida.us/resources
Q. Should IEP Teams for ELLs with disabilities include persons with expertise in second language acquisition?
A. Yes. It is important that IEP Teams for ELLs with disabilities include persons with expertise in second language acquisition and other professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, who understand how to differentiate between limited English proficiency and a disability. The participation of these individuals on the IEP Team is essential in order to develop appropriate academic and functional goals for the child and provide specially designed instruction and the necessary related services to meet these goals.
The IDEA regulation in 34 CFR §300.321(a) specifies that the participants on each child's IEP Team include:
The parents of the child;
Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);
Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or, where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child;
A representative of the public agency who –
Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and
Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency.
An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(6) of this section;
At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and
Whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.
It is important that IEP Teams for ELLs with disabilities include a public agency representative, as described previously, who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of ELLs with disabilities. This representative should be knowledgeable about the availability of agency resources needed to enable ELLs with disabilities to meaningfully access the general education curriculum. This will ensure that the services included in the ELL student's IEP are appropriate for the student and can actually be provided.
Under the IDEA, the IEP Team must consider a number of special factors in developing, reviewing, or revising a child's IEP. Under 34 CFR §300.324(a)(2)(ii), the IEP Team must "[i]n the case of a child with limited English proficiency, consider the language needs of the child as those needs relate to the child's IEP." Therefore, to implement this requirement, the IEP Team should include participants who have the requisite expertise about the student's language needs.
An IEP Team that includes appropriate members should be able to make thoughtful decisions about the content of an ELL's IEP, including the manner in which the student participates in the annual State ELP assessment. In addition, States and districts are encouraged to provide other IEP Team members with appropriate training in language acquisition and the unique needs of ELLs with disabilities.
The IEP team should consist of appropriate members who should be able to make thoughtful decisions about the content of an ELL's IEP. Although bilingual and ESL teachers are not required members of the IEP Team, in order to effectively consider the needs of a student with limited English proficiency, the district should consider including them as members of the team and/or solicit input into the student's IEP. It is important to note, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.4, foreign language interpreters shall be provided, when necessary, by the district, at no cost to the parent.
In order effectively include parents on the IEP team, team members should be trained in working with linguistically and culturally diverse parents.
Q. When and how can an ELL with a disability be exited from ELL status?
A. An ELL with a disability can be "exited" from ELL status when he/she no longer meets the definition of an ELL. This occurs when the student meets the State's definition of "proficient" in English. The district, school personnel, and the IEP Team may have input into the decision of whether a student is proficient in English in accordance with the district's multiple measures ELL exit policy. However, there is no provision in the IDEA that would authorize the IEP Team to remove the ELL designation before the student has attained English proficiency. In addition, other districts and/or school personnel do not have the authority under Federal law to remove a student's ELL designation solely because the student has an IEP.
High School Students Displaced Due to Emergency Circumstances
Q. We are receiving students displaced by recent emergency circumstances (e.g., hurricane). These students do not have any transcripts. How do I determine grade level and program services?
A. If school records cannot be readily obtained from the student's prior school district, the enrolling school district may seek input from the parent/guardian. Based on those discussions and any evaluative information, the district may place the student in classes in the grade that is consistent with the student's biological age and provide program services (e.g. ESL), as needed. Input from the parent/guardian and student may contribute to developing a class schedule.
For students with disabilities, the district must seek input from the parent/guardian, as well as the child study team and, without delay, provide a program comparable to that which the student was last receiving. Within 30 days of the transfer, the district must conduct any needed evaluations and develop a new IEP for all out-of-state transfers.
Reference: NJDOE Broadcast October 11, 2017.
Q. Can my district use locally developed, board-approved assessments to award high school credits and inform program service placement?
A. Yes, the district may also use locally created district-approved assessments to assist with service placement and award credits toward meeting graduation requirements. The district may also use Option Two (see below for more information).
Q. Displaced students are arriving mid-school year. Is there a required seat time for students to receive credit for a class?
A. No. The NJDOE does not have a policy on required seat time to receive full credit for a class. It is up to the district to create a policy on seat time needed to receive full course credit versus audit credit.
Q. In New Jersey, the compulsory age for education is 20 years old. Are there exceptions to this rule?
A. State law (N.J.S.A 18A:38-1) stipulates that public schools must be free of charge to any person over five and under 20 years of age who is domiciled within the school district, and to certain students under 5 and over 20 as specified in other applicable law (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-1.1). However, school districts may continue to enroll students 20 years and older that are in the process of earning credits to meet high school graduation requirements. Also, if a student has an IEP, the student may remain in school until age 21 or through graduation, whichever occurs sooner (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.1).
Q. My district will not allow my ELL child to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Is this permissible?
A. No. According to N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.4(d), districts must ensure that all students have equitable access to any instructional program available (e.g., magnet, Gifted & Talented, special education); extra-curricular programs, as well as sports, clubs, ROTC, debate society, student exchange programs; and supports and other services (e.g., tutoring, counseling).
Q. My child is 15. He was unable to attend middle school. What grade will he start here in N.J.?
According to the U.S. Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights Dear Colleague Letter on January 7, 2015, “School districts should place English language learners (ELLs) in age-appropriate grade levels so they can have meaningful access to their grade-appropriate curricula and an equal opportunity to graduate.” The guidance further clarifies, “It would be inappropriate for a district to place high school-aged SIFE students in middle or elementary school campus programs because this would not permit SIFE students to meet high school grade-level standards and graduation requirements within a reasonable amount of time and the placements would not be age-appropriate.”
Q. Is there another way for students to meet graduation requirements besides taking traditional classes?
A. Yes. The Department acknowledges that not all students may achieve the standards in the same manner or at the same pace. A district may permit an alternative learning experience to enable students to fulfill the expectations set forth in the N.J. Student Learning Standards.
Option Two (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii) of the high school graduation requirements allows local school districts to design and/or approve educational experiences that serve as an alternative to traditional instruction and provide meaningful learning experiences that support student achievement of the N.J. Student Learning Standards. Option Two allows schools to provide a superior education for all students through the use of multiple and diverse paths.
For general information and important information about New Jersey Schools, click here in English and Spanish (En Español) for the Department’s “Guide to Your Children’s Schools – A Parent’s Handbook to New Jersey Schools”.