LA Schools Adopt Sanctuary Protections for Students

LOS ANGELES (CN) — As deportation fears grip Los Angeles communities, the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday adopted policies to ease the uncertainty students and their families face during the school day.

School board members Monica García and Ref Rodriguez introduced a resolution urging Superintendent Michelle King to reaffirm that LA schools are a safe place for students and strengthening a series of protections.

The audience in the board room broke into applause after the board adopted the resolution.

It comes after the school district responded to President Donald Trump’s election by declaring its schools “safe zones,” and instructing school officials to ask the district’s permission before allowing immigration agents onto school property.

Speaking before a public comment on the resolution, García said the district is standing with students and families to increase graduation rates, and support students and families.

“We want to engage and support every school district that is interested in lifting up this toolkit and joining the effort to serve our children,” García said.

Under the policy, which strengthens protections the district already has taken, the district will train staff not to enter into agreements with immigration agents or share students’ confidential information, including their immigration status, unless students or their parents give permission.

García and King’s resolution asks LAUSD to train teachers, administrators and staff how to handle Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should they try to enter school property, and to offer students legal support, counseling, Know Your Rights presentations, and educational opportunities, whatever their immigration status.

All students need to feel safe to learn, and they cannot feel secure if ICE agents are allowed to enter schools or district property “for the purpose of removing students or their family members, or obtaining information about students and their families,” the resolution states.

PUC Milagro Charter School principal Sascha Robinett said during public comment that she has seen the fear and uncertainty firsthand, noting that on a back to school night in April 100 of her 288 kids showed up. Typically, 95 percent of children attend, she said.

“This fear continues to rise daily, and the stress affects our kids’ ability to concentrate and therefore learn and grow,” Robinett said.

ACLU attorney Sylvia Torres-Guillén said the resolution is “neither political nor partisan,” but an effort to ensure that students come first.

“This resolution is an important opportunity for LAUSD to be a model for the state and for this nation,” she said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982, in Plyler v. Doe, that public schools cannot deny children education because of their immigration status.

In February, ICE agents arrested Romulo Avelica Gonzalez after he dropped off his 12-year-old daughter at a school in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood. They arrested him under a 2014 deportation order.

In response, a coalition of community organizations and public schools formed California Schools Are Sanctuaries, to resist efforts by ICE agents to detain students and their families at public schools. The group supported the resolution, titled Reaffirmation of Los Angeles Unified School District Schools as Safe Zones for Families Threatened by Immigration Enforcement.

With reports of ICE agents detaining people at courthouses, and announcing that they are police officers to enter homes, Los Angeles city leaders have introduced a series of measures to protect immigrant communities.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in March there was evidence that families are avoiding parks, libraries and community centers for fear of deportation.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said last week that an analysis of emergency call data revealed a decrease in 911 calls from two predominantly Hispanic areas of the city, in the Hollenbeck and Rampart divisions, adding to concerns that undocumented immigrants are wary of contacting police out of fear of deportation.

Beck said in March that domestic violence reports had decreased 10 percent from Latinos, and sexual assault reports fell 25 percent compared to the previous year. The LAPD did not find a similar decline in reporting in other minority groups, he said.

Beck said at the time that it was too early to blame the decrease on the actions of the Trump administration. He called the report an “outlier,” and said he had not found a “direct nexus” to federal immigration policies, but a “strong correlation.”

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice pushed back forcefully against the numbers on crime reporting, calling Beck’s assertion “outrageous and wrongheaded.”

President Trump has signed an executive order to withdraw federal funds from “sanctuary” cities and gave federal immigration officers the power to detain immigrants who have committed a crime or are in the United States without documentation.

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