Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
Contact: Stephanie Teatro | Stephanie@tnimmigrant.org
TIRRC Applies Nashville School Board's Leadership in Protecting Immigrant Families
NASHVILLE - Tonight, the Davidson County Metropolitan Board of Public Education passed a resolution committing to ensure schools remain safe and welcoming places for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The resolution comes in response to widespread fear among immigrant parents in the district in the wake of the November elections.
In the days following the election, many undocumented families kept their children home from school for fear that the the widespread deportations promised by President-elect Trump during his campaign might occur at public schools and other government buildings.
All children are guaranteed the right to a public education in the United States, regardless of their immigration status. President Obama's administration has issued guidance to immigration enforcement agents that schools should be considered "sensitive locations" where immigration enforcement actions should not be conducted. The guidance, however, is outlined in a memo that could be rescinded by President-elect Trump.
The resolution passed tonight, "[d]eclares its intent to work with the director of schools to develop robust policies, protocols, and systems that designates all K-12 schools, early education centers, adult schools, and parent centers as ‘safe zones’ for students and their families to ensure equal access to education regardless of their immigration status, including but not limited to prohibiting inquiries into the status of students and families, the sharing of information protected by the Family Educations Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) with other government agencies, ensuring that school grounds remain free from immigration enforcement activities, and that schools become a resource center for District students and their families impacted by immigration enforcement."
The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):
"We applaud the school board's leadership in standing with immigrant families and making clear that schools will be safe for all students. In this time of deep fear and uncertainty, and as the threat of mass deportation looms, it is critical that our district takes steps to ensure that schools remain safe and welcoming environments of learning for all kids.
No parent should fear that taking their child to school or engaging in their child's education could result in their deportation. Any real or perceived collaboration with immigration enforcement will undermine community trust in public schools and have a detrimental impact on the well-being and educational outcomes of thousands of students in the district.
We are eager to partner with the Board of Education and Dr. Joseph in develop a robust set of policies and protocols that ensure that teachers and public employees are never asked to be immigration enforcement agents and that schools are never the site of deportations and raids.
This common-sense resolution reaffirms the Board's commitment to existing policy and is in line with our values and long-standing history of being a welcoming district."
Full text of the resolution:
A resolution declaring the Board of Education’s intent to designate Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) as Safe Zones and to Create Resources for Students and Families Threatened by Immigration Enforcement and Targeted by Bullying
WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Board of Public Education is committed to providing every student a high quality education that promotes social and emotional learning and strives for increasing academic achievement; and
WHEREAS, the Board believes that ensuring that our schools are safe and welcoming for all students and their families will facilitate the physical safety and emotional well-being of all children in the District, and is paramount to students’ ability to achieve; and
WHEREAS, students, families, teachers, and principals, have reported an uptick in bullying and harassment of students, especially incidents based on their real or perceived immigration status of students; and
WHEREAS, MNPS has committed to providing all students with a learning environment free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or bullying (SP 6.110 Bullying, Cyber Bullying, Discrimination, Intimidation, Harassment, and Hazing); and
WHEREAS, the Board has received reports that families with undocumented students or family members have expressed hesitation in enrolling or attending public schools, due to a fear that schools and other government agencies may be involved in immigration enforcement actions; and
WHEREAS, there are an estimated 33,000 undocumented people living in Davidson County, which include District students, their parents, and close family members. An estimated 8,000 undocumented Nashville residents live with at least 1 U.S. citizen child under the age of 18. These students and their families are an integral part of our schools and communities; and
WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court held in Plyer v. Doe (1982) that no public school district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status, citing the harm it would inflict on the child and society itself, and the equal protection rights of the Fourteenth Amendment; and
WHEREAS, Immigration arrests, detentions, and deportations and the threats thereof have affected many families in the district, and indications that deportations will increase dramatically has created a climate of heightened fear and anxiety for many students and their families across our district; and
WHEREAS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in and around schools, early education centers, and adult school facilities would lead to emotional and psychological trauma for students and staff and would result in severe disruption to the learning and educational setting for all students and a fear and hesitation of enrollment and participation in schools; and
WHEREAS, a growing body of empirical research demonstrates the short-term and long-term consequences on students’ whose family members have been removed during ICE raids or arrests. Studies show that these students experience psychological trauma, material hardship, residential instability, and family dissolution, hindering their ability to achieve; and
WHEREAS, the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) longstanding policy states that it will not conduct immigration enforcement activity at any sensitive location, which includes schools, without special permission by specific federal law enforcement officials, unless exigent circumstances exist;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education:
- Commits to ensuring its schools remain safe and welcoming places for all students and their families regardless of their immigration status; and
- Asks the director of schools to strengthen, publicize, and evaluate the effectiveness of SP 6.110 Bullying, Cyber Bullying, Discrimination, Intimidation, Harassment, and Hazing;
- Asks the director of schools to increase and enhance partnerships with community-based organizations and legal services organizations who can provide resources and support for families impacted by immigration enforcement actions and deportations; and
- Declares its intent to work with the director of schools to develop robust policies, protocols, and systems that designates all K-12 schools, early education centers, adult schools, and parent centers as ‘safe zones’ for students and their families to ensure equal access to education regardless of their immigration status, including but not limited to prohibiting inquiries into the status of students and families, the sharing of information protected by the Family Educations Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) with other government agencies, ensuring that school grounds remain free from immigration enforcement activities, and that schools become a resource center for District students and their families impacted by immigration enforcement.
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.