SPLC sues Alabama Education Dept. for school data on immigration - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SPLC sues Ala. Ed. Dept. for school data

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A lawsuit has been filed accusing the Alabama Department of Education of refusing to release school data showing the impact of Alabama's law cracking down on illegal immigrants has had on Hispanic students.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery filed the lawsuit, which contends education officials have declined to release data on student enrollment before and after the immigration law was enacted.

The lawsuit says the SPLC has requested a copy of information that education officials have sent to the U.S. Justice Department. A section of the immigration law requires school systems to collect immigration data from families of students. That section has been enjoined by a federal court.

"By law, schools must ensure the rights of all children to attend school free from discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of immigration status," said Sam Brooke, staff attorney for the SPLC. "Section 28 interferes with that basic right. The legislature and the governor have claimed that Section 28 will not have any impact on enrollment, yet the Department of Justice is reporting that Alabama's own data shows a significant and measurable decline in Latino students' school attendance. Alabamians have a right to see the data for themselves, to know the impact this law is having."

The Alabama Department of Education issued the following statement to WSFA 12 News:

We have complied with the law and those with jurisdiction over it. We have provided information and data as requested, with the exception of any request that would violate current federal privacy laws. Any information provided to the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) was done so with the understanding that Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act laws be maintained. The data in question was compiled as a result of ongoing negotiations with the USDOJ as part of an active investigation and are not considered public records. We believe strongly in transparency, while at the same time respecting and adhering to the privacy rights of Alabama students. We welcome the opportunity to work with the SPLC. No additional data has been collected pursuant to the order of the appeals court.

The SPLC's lawsuit seeks data on what effect the immigration law had before being stopped by the courts.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. WSFA 12 News contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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