Wendy Mendoza was among a throng of parents gathered in the lobby of Latino Memphis on Saturday, waiting to create a unique kind of identification — one specific to Shelby County Schools.
“I have (an ID) from my country, but not from Memphis,” said the immigrant mother of four school-age children.
Last year, the district started requiring parents entering certain schools to scan a formal photo identification as part of a background check to obtain access beyond school lobbies. The policy will expand to all district schools this year in Memphis.
What was created as a safety measure, however, also has created a barrier for parents with international identification or for family members who are undocumented residents. Many have been prevented from attending extracurricular activities for their children, or from getting involved in their kids’ schools.
“We’ve had parents come in and tell us that they were sent away from their kids’ schools because they weren’t accepting their form of ID,” said Fabiola Cervantes, communications and outreach coordinator at Latino Memphis, a Hispanic advocacy group representing the city’s growing Hispanic community. “We’re working with the district to create forms of identification so parents can participate and go beyond the lobby of a school.”
Robert Williams, a district safety and security specialist, spent several hours at Latino Memphis last weekend working with parents like Mendoza to create a district-specific ID, or “parent access ID.” This is the first time the district has offered the service, he said.
“The parent access ID … is for parents who do not have a formal photo identification,” Williams said. “It gives the district validation of who they are when they go on campus so that campus faculty and staff have some proof that we’ve already recognized them as parents who can be on campus.”
The district IDs will enable more undocumented parents or family members to engage in their children’s education, said Karen Rodriguez, directer of operations and finance for Latino Memphis. The advocacy group also will continue to work with the district to make sure international forms of ID are recognized in the district’s software programs, she added.
“One of the main things they’re going to be able to do is go into the schools,” Rodriguez said. “So, they’re going to be able to volunteer, they’re going to be able to go have lunch with their child, or go to their classroom and do other things they weren’t able to do because they didn’t have that ID. ”