Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Austin ISD board approves resolution in support of immigrant students
Very proud of our AISD School Board and Superintendent Paul Cruz for adopting a resolution in support of the district's immigrant & refugee families.
Posted: 9:41 p.m. Monday, February 20, 2017
The Austin school board Monday night unanimously approved 9-0 a resolution in support of undocumented students.
The resolution includes language stating that:
“all students are entitled to a public education regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents,”
“schools and classrooms are safe, welcoming and inclusive places for all students and all families, regardless of their immigration status,”
and the district will “strive to create the safest possible environments for its students and employees, providing them the foundation needed to learn, thrive, seek assistance and information, and reach each child’s potential in an education-focused environment, free of insecurity and fear, for all its employees, students and their families, regardless of immigration status.”
Multiple other Texas school districts, including Houston and San Antonio, have passed similar resolutions.
“We are choosing as a district to be a light,” said Trustee Jayme Mathias, “to be a light and to stand on the side of our immigrant students and employees and families in proclaiming our schools to be places where we want all of our students and all of our employees and all of our families to feel safe.”
Prior to the vote, and earlier in the evening during a press conference, Superintendent Paul Cruz did not specifically mention immigrants, refugees or undocumented immigrants, but instead emphasized Austin schools as safe and fully supports “all students.”
“To reassure the Austin community, we are all committed to educating all of our students, all of our youngsters,” Cruz said. “We all know, and this board knows, our kids depend on us and we’re here for them. We were here for them yesterday, we’re here for them today and we’re going to be here for them tomorrow, as well. This is about an Austin community who really cares and supports for our kids. And AISD is one of those organizations that supports our kids in the most meaningful ways.
“I want to reiterate that our board, our staff members, our teachers, our principals, our partners are coming together to figure out the best way to support our students and our families. We all know that diversity is our strength and we take care of each other.”
Federal law requires school districts to educate students, regardless of their immigration status. But since June, when Austin valedictorian Mayte Lara received backlash for declaring in a tweet that she was an “undocumented” immigrant, the labor group Education Austin and others have lobbied the school board to pass a resolution declaring support for the students. More recently, on Wednesday, led by labor group Education Austin, various community leaders — including three school board members and two politicians — called on the Austin district to take a stronger stand for undocumented students.
On Thursday, more than 20,000 Austin district students — nearly one in four — missed school on a “Day without Immigrants.” It’s unclear how many of those students were absent because of the national movement, which encouraged supporters to not go to work or school to demonstrate how much immigrants contribute to business and society.
In the days prior, some parents who are immigrants kept their children home from school out of fear they would be targeted by immigration enforcement officials. Others told teachers they were withdrawing their children from school.
“We recognize the fear in our communities,” said board President Kendall Pace. “We also recognize community engagement and trust building is tantamount to our collective success. We share the concerns and wanted to make a statement tonight reaffirming our commitment to our communities and our students.”
Education Austin in recent weeks stepped up outreach efforts, providing its 3,000 members with various documents, including a flier titled, “What to do if ICE comes to your door,” referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Members of the group also offered training to nearly 250 educators on immigration laws and rights, and have met with immigrants on campuses to explain their rights and what to do if immigration enforcement officials try to question them.
“Austin ISD is a safe place for all of our students,” Cruz said regarding families keeping their children home out of fear. “We are here to educate all of our kids. Our teachers want to see our students every single day. We want to make sure we’re taking care of them.”