Ala. delays school data request by Justice Dept.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The State Department of Education is advising school superintendents to hold off on providing enrollment data to the U.S. Department of Justice.  The DOJ had requested Alabama school superintendents provide a list of all students who had withdrawn from schools since the beginning of the school year.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez sent a letter to Alabama school systems wanting to know how many Hispanic students are enrolled in schools and how many have withdrawn since the beginning of the school year.  Educators reported the new law caused many Hispanic students to stay home in the days immediately after it took effect.

The Eleventh Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals later put on hold a portion of the law requiring schools to report the number of students whose immigration status is in question. So school systems stopped asking about status.

Now in response to the latest request from the DOJ, the state's interim School Superintendent Larry Craven told systems to hold off on releasing the data to the federal government.  He referred to concerns from State Attorney General Luther Strange.

"I was perplexed and troubled to learn that you have personally written to Alabama's school superintendents demanding information related to the pending litigation," Strange wrote in a letter to Perez.  "Your letter does not state your legal authority to demand the information or compel its production."

Strange gave Perez until Friday to respond. Otherwise, it appears, he will advise the schools not to hand over the data. The state's response came on the same day that the state released the number of Hispanic students in each school system.

Compared to last year, enrollment of Hispanics in Autauga County increased from 186 students in the 2010-2011 school year to 192 in the current year.  The number declined in Elmore County from 307 to 258.  But the number of Hispanic students increased sharply in Montgomery County from 884 to 1237.

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