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State school supt. urges ‘safe haven’ for all schools

In the aftermath of the Nov. election in which Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the race for president, concern over “fear in the immigrant community” and “reports of potential raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) ... have prompted several school districts to declare their campuses “safe zones for students and families threatened by immigration enforcement.”

On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson added his voice to the post-election discussion by urging that all of California’s 10,500 public schools be given the designation of “safe haven” for students and their parents.

“Unfortunately,” Torlakson wrote in his letter to California’s school districts, “since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious, or ethnic identification are on the rise.”

Torlakson went on to remind school districts that the 1984 Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibits any education agency from denying any eligible student enrollment to public schools because of immigration status.

Torlakson wrote that some of the state’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Sacramento Unified, and San Francisco Unified have already “declared themselves safe havens.”

According to Babatunde Ilori, director of internal communications and program management for Madera Unified, the State Center Community College District adopted a safe haven resolution recently.

Madera Superintendent Ed Gonzalez told The Tribune, “More and more districts are adopting these resolutions.”

Gonzalez has supplied school trustees with copies of a resolution that could serve as a model for a new MUSD board policy. It would make all of the district’s schools “safe zones.”

The sample resolution alleges that “in the last few months, federal, state, and local government officials throughout the country have proposed or passed laws and ordinances that propose stemming the tide of undocumented immigrants by cutting off opportunities for jobs, government benefits, housing, and imposing fines on companies employing undocumented immigrants, thereby increasing tensions in immigrant communities.”

The document further raises the specter of possible raids (presumably on local schools) by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Gonzalez maintains that fear in Madera’s immigrant community is “very real” and wants to assure local parents that district personnel are not “immigration authorities.”

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