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School board resolution affirms city schools do not collect info on students' immigration status

By Marjorie Cortez  |  Posted Mar 20th, 2017 @ 7:50pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School Board is expected to act Tuesday on a proposed resolution that acknowledges some residents' fear of possible immigration enforcement actions but offers reassurance the district does not ask students to disclose immigration status.

The Salt Lake City Board of Education is scheduled to address "The Safe School Resolution," which affirms the school district's philosophy and practice that "all children in the United States have the right to a free and appropriate public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived national origin, citizenship or immigration status."

The resolution also affirms that the school district "cannot and does not" inquire about a student's immigration status nor that of their parents or guardians as part of its admissions process.

Board President Heather Bennett said the resolution does not go as far as some constituents would have liked but makes clear that Salt Lake City schools and other district facilities are "safe and welcoming places" for all students and their families.

"It probably won't allay all their concerns because we have to be honest about what we can and can't do, and we're not going to ask our employees to violate the law. But it makes it clear we're not going to give unfettered access to ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) or any agency acting on behalf of ICE or acting to enforce immigration law to our schools and our students. We take the protections of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) very seriously," Bennett said.

The resolution contains some of the same information previously distributed in a letter from district administrators that said the district does not inquire about students' immigration status nor those in their households. The letter, posted on the district website, contained links to organizations that can assist families with immigration matters.

In the wake of "some pretty significant changes in immigration enforcement priorities, the board felt it would be valuable for us to take a stand as the governing board elected by the people of Salt Lake City," Bennett said.

The resolution gives guidance to school employees in the event local, state or federal authorities attempt to enforce federal immigration laws by seeking entry to district property, attempting to communicate with a student who is under the supervision of the school district for any school activity, including while riding a bus, or in seeking information about the district's students.

"No request shall be granted until it has been reviewed by the executive director of policy and legal services. In reviewing and responding to such requests, the executive director of policy and legal services will not allow access to our students unless required to do so by law, and will do everything in the district’s lawful power to protect the constitutional and legal rights of the district’s students," the resolution states.

To help ensure the safety and emotional well-being of students impacted by immigration enforcement actions, the district will deploy its existing crisis and emergency response teams. It also will provide training and additional resources if needed.

Last month, high school and college students and other community members packed a school board meeting at Glendale Middle School, urging the board to adopt a petition they crafted after the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo that said, in part, "the department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement."

The DHS memo stirred fear in Salt Lake's immigrant community, who include "mixed-status households" where some family members were born in the United States, others who may have green cards and still others who may be unauthorized to be in the country, Bennett said.

The students' petition, which was developed with help from Unidad Inmigrante, outlined ways the school district could ensure protection for immigrant students who live in fear of being deported.

While no immigration actions have occurred at Salt Lake schools, on district property or on transportation routes nor have federal officials requested information about students, the resolution emphasizes such actions "would significantly disrupt the learning environment and substantially interfere with our students’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizures and to access a free public education."

The bottom line is, Bennett said, the school board and district administrators "want people to feel safe and we want kids to come to school."

Marjorie Cortez
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