The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) enrolls students from families speaking 47 different languages, ranging from Spanish, Korean and Tagalog to Arabic and Russian. Thirty-five percent are of Latino descent, 26 percent of Asian descent and more than 72 percent are students of color. Some–by federal law, the district is not allowed to ask which–come from mixed status immigrant families that include both documented and undocumented family members.
Considerable fear has been generated among these students and their families because of escalating federal deportations of undocumented immigrants. One upper elementary school student shared the story of how her undocumented classmate confided in her about being scared and confused and cried because “she does not have her card.” Fearing adverse repercussions, the student did not want to share her own name or school publically.
“The fear is huge,” said SCUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stanley Rose. “The fear creeps into school because of what’s around them outside of school.”
“We support all of our children’s rights to an education. It’s our job to make sure all our kids have the same opportunity to a good education in a safe environment,” said Rose. “We also promise to protect their privacy rights to the full extent of the law. These are not political statements. These are statements of law.”
To affirm all students, on Dec. 8, 2016, the Governing Board of SCUSD adopted Resolution #16-46: Safe Environment for Students. Resolution #17-05, expanding on the first resolution, will be presented for Board approval at the April 6 school board meeting, which is open to the public.
“There has been so much confusion and uncertainty over the changes in immigration policy. The second resolution we are considering, identifies the laws protecting students and bolsters our first resolution by putting into place actionable steps to provide an understood and safe environment that addresses the fears expressed by our students,” said SCUSD Board of Trustees President Andrew Ratermann.
The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Pyler v. Doe, requires schools to provide equal education to all children, regardless of their perceived national origin, citizenship or immigration status. SCUSD’s steps toward a safe environment will include professional development for staff, student counseling at all 27 SCUSD schools and additional informational meetings for parents.
On Feb. 28 at his quarterly meeting with the Student District Leadership Team, with student representatives from each middle and high school, Rose asked students to share what they heard, experienced or observed on their campuses about students feeling afraid.
The response from everyone around the room was that at school students tend to feel safe, but outside of school some students are very afraid. By law, schools are “sensitive locations” where immigration officials would need a compelling reason to interfere.
“[Students] are always worried when they go home if their parents are going to be there. They are constantly living in fear if their parents are undocumented,” the student representatives told Rose. Parents are worried as well.
Eighty parents attended a meeting on March 7 at the SCUSD office. The meeting was to assure them of the district’s legal responsibility to keep students safe and protect their privacy. Also, nonprofits such as Catholic Charities and a legal firm specializing in immigrant issues provided information on child safety plans in case parents are separated from their children.
“The fear in the room among parents was palpable,” said Rose.
The Santa Clara County Office of Education website provides information for families: www.sccoe.org/supoffice/Pages/Support-for-Undocumented-Students.aspx. Click on the “Resources for Family” tab “Safe Schools & Resources for Undocumented Students.” To read SCUSD resolution #16-46, visit the SCUSD website: www.santaclarausd.org/board/resolution1646. For a message from superintendent Rose: www.santaclarausd.org/superintendent.
“Fear for one’s self, or over the fate of fellow students, is the antithesis of the safe and welcoming environment we strive to maintain in our schools. As such, the district is taking progressive steps to address the fear generated from changes in immigration policy,” stated Ratermann.