Districts work to address policy for immigrants

Old Orchard Elementary School, Newhall School District

Santa Clarita Valley schools are crafting policies to comply with a state mandate requiring school districts to address the treatment of illegal immigrants and their families.

In accordance with Assembly Bill 699, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra previously published “model policies” pertaining to immigration enforcement in elementary and secondary public school districts.

The policies outline the procedures to be followed in the event that a student’s family member is detained or deported, as well as how local districts should respond to immigration enforcement officers’ requests for access to information, students or school grounds.

This week, Saugus Union School District officials will conduct a second review of their updated board policy, which outlines the district’s response to immigration enforcement.

SCV districts and all public California K-12 school districts, including charter schools, have until July 1, according to AB 699, to adopt policies that reflect those developed by the attorney general.

With potential changes to immigration policies and enforcement at the federal level, AB 699 states, “It is more important than ever for California to work to protect students and ensure that, regardless of their immigration status, they may continue to take advantage of the education to which they are entitled, free from intimidation.”

California is home to thousands of students who entered the country illegally and rely on the state’s education system, according to estimates from the Public Policy Institute of California. “It is likely that 12.3 percent of California’s K-12 school children have an undocumented parent.”

Last year, Newhall School District officials believed there was “palpable student and parent fears about changes in federal enforcement actions against undocumented immigrants,” according to a school board agenda. “The fears should be taken seriously as they could lead to parents becoming reluctant to participate in school activities,” and possibly decide to stop sending their children to school if they fear imminent enforcement actions on or near school campuses.

As a result, the board approved a California School Boards Association-created draft resolution clarifying that immigration status cannot be an object of inquiry by the district or schools, and that federal policy states that enforcement activities shall not be conducted at any “sensitive” location, which includes schools.

Other SCV school districts, such as the Castaic Union School District, have also recently adopted resolutions detailing what to do should teachers or staff find themselves face-to-face with immigration enforcement authorities.

The Saugus district is expected to approve its newest policy stating, “Teachers, school administrators and other school staff shall receive training regarding immigration issues, including information on responding to a request from an immigration officer to visit a school site or to have access to a student,” according to a resolution on the agenda.

The new policies and regulations are being updated to reflect the requirements laid forth by the California attorney general, AB 699 and Senate Bill 31, which prohibits school districts from compiling or assisting federal government authorities with compiling a list, registry or database based on students’ national origin, ethnicity or religion.

For those who are interested in learning more about immigration rights and other school issues, the office of the attorney general published a “Quick Reference for School Officials,” which can be found online. A “Guide for Students and Families,” is also available in English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog and Arabic.

The main goal of the new policies is to promote a positive school climate, the guide states.

“A positive school climate is one in which students, educators and staff feel safe, welcomed, supported and connected,” since studies show that healthy school climates contribute to academic achievement and other positive outcomes for students, AB 699 reads.

“California schools must take steps to protect the integrity of their learning environments for all children,” including those who are undocumented, AB 699 states.

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