VANCOUVER — As federal immigration officers step up raids on undocumented immigrants across the United States, many school district leaders are trying to ensure that all students — regardless of immigration status — have a safe, welcoming learning environment.
Chicago Public Schools’ board of directors passed a resolution in December of 2016 prohibiting discrimination of students based on immigration status and school districts in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico and California have since passed similar measures to make sure that the classroom remains a place for learning and not a place where undocumented immigrant children fear for their safety.
One of the latest districts to pass this type of “safe, welcoming and inclusive” resolution is the Evergreen Public Schools (EPS) district in Vancouver.
The Evergreen Public Schools’ Board of Directors discuss a resolution to protect students and staff from federal immigration raids inside schools, district buildings at the Board’s March 14, 2017 meeting.
On Tue., March 14, the EPS Board of Directors passed a resolution to protect students from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and to reaffirm the school district’s policy of not asking for or documenting its students’ immigration status.
“This is a very timely subject and we feel a lot of passion (for) the safety of students in our school,” Evergreen Public Schools (EPS) Board of Directors President Victoria Bradford said at the Board’s March 14 meeting, before introducing a resolution that reaffirms the district’s “commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every student without regard to their race, religion, national origin, or immigration status.”
“I’m hoping that, through this resolution, we are very clear about our position on this,” Bradford said. “(And) that our families will know that their children are safe in their schools.”
The resolution states that the EPS district will “not ask for, nor record, student or family immigration status” and will “call on ICE and related federal agencies to continue the policy of not conducting enforcement actions in sensitive locations such as schools.”
It also clarifies that EPS staff members will follow district policy and “not ask for, nor record, student or family immigration status.”
The resolution also limits ICE officers’ ability to gain access to student information and to come onto school or district grounds without written consent from the district’s superintendent.
EPS school board member Rob Perkins said he hoped the resolution would help “quell the worry that (ICE agents) could enter the school” and disrupt the classroom.
Perkins added that he has heard from EPS teachers who are “deeply passionate about protecting children from having this disruption in their school experience under any circumstance.”
Todd Yuzuriha, the school board’s vice president, agreed and said he was happy to see that the resolution was “still following the law, but doing what’s best for the kids.”
John Steach, who will take over for retiring EPS Superintendent John Deeder in August of 2017, also attended the March 14 school board meeting and said he’s heard from several EPS principals who wanted “leadership and direction” from the Board of Directors regarding the district’s policies on allowing federal immigration officers to access schools and individual student information.
Saying that the district must do everything it can to protect the children who attend EPS schools, Steach told the community members gathered at the March 14 school board meeting, “when it comes to children, safety is (the school district’s) core value.”
After the resolution passed unanimously, several members of the public in attendance cheered the school board’s decision.
To read the full resolution, click here.