Board supports immigrant students, promotes district as sanctuary

    The Palo Alto school board is pursuing a new policy approved in a unanimous vote. During a school board meeting on Tuesday, the board approved a resolution affirming PAUSD’s support of immigrant students and families, and states PAUSD is a sanctuary for students.

    The new resolution is in line with the proposed bill by California Democratic Senator Kevin de León. According to Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times, the new bill by de León will outline the implementation of “safe zones” for immigrants in locations like public schools, medical facilities and places of worship, which will prohibit immigration enforcement on such locations. 

    Under this proposed bill, immigrant students would be offered a sort of political protection, according to McGreevy. For de León, this is a result of concerns raised following statements made about mass-deportation during the 2016 election cycle.

    “To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California dream, the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policy,” de León said in reference to the California Values Act.

    PAUSD’s own resolution outlines the board’s policy on providing high-quality public education to both children of legal citizens and to those of undocumented residents. It was developed and revised by the board members themselves.

    This document ensures the safety of all students in PAUSD, according to Supt. Max McGee, who says he “is proud of the education PAUSD serves to every student.” In a statement released on Thursday, McGee emphasized that PAUSD does not tolerate discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin. 

    “As educators, we know that students cannot learn when they do not feel welcomed and safe at school,” McGee said in the statement. “For that reason, we work very hard to create and maintain safe learning environments where teachers, students and other staff members can safely learn and work together.”

    Schools are among a relatively short list of locations deemed as “sensitive areas” by the United States Department of Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Sensitive areas are locations in which government enforcement action is taken with an air of caution in order to maintain an environment of safety and tranquility, particularly in places of worship, education, ceremonial practices and medical facilities. The Immigration and Custom Enforcement policy also discourages enforcement actions at schools, except in cases of imminent danger.

    The resolution states that PAUSD officials will not cooperate with immigration enforcement actions unless specifically required to do so by law, but will not interfere with necessary action carried out by law enforcement. For instance, district staff must respond to questions about students from immigration officers, but will refer them first to the Supt. or his designee, “unless there is an immediate threat to public safety.” Additionally, the resolution states that “PAUSD will not disclose personally identifiable information in a student’s ‘educational records’ to outside agencies without written parental consent, judicial order, or lawfully-issued subpoena.”

    With the passing of this resolution, the Board of Education and Paly administration will be working together to ensure that PAUSD is a “sanctuar[y] for students to the fullest extent allowed by law,” McGee said.

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