School districts pledge to protect immigrant students’ rights

Source: The Wenatchee World

The Lake Chelan School District will “support and protect” the rights of its students — documented and undocumented — if immigration conflicts arise on school property, Superintendent Barry DePaoli announced Thursday in a letter to parents and guardians.

DePaoli’s letter, posted on the school district’s Facebook page, voices support for undocumented students and intends to dispel fear and rumors that U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officials have been present on school property in the wake of stepped-up immigration controls announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The letter is posted in both English and Spanish.

Matt Charlton, Manson School District superintendent, said he sent a similar letter to parents.

Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said Thursday the template was sent Feb. 3 to all school districts in the state.

 … Lake Chelan School District is committed to providing all of our students with the education that they are legally entitled to receive,” DePaoli’s letter said, pointing to a court ruling that gives undocumented children a constitutional right to receive a free public K-12 education.

This past week there were rumors about ICE officials being on school campuses and taking local students into custody as a result of their immigration status,” the letter says. “After talking to both the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department and the regional ICE office in Wenatchee, we have determined that there is no basis to those rumors and that immigration raids have not occurred in our region.”

DePaoli continues, “ … We view diversity as our strength and we truly respect and value each of our students and their families,” DePaoli says in the letter. “Our teachers and administrators will continue to support and protect the rights of students during this period of transition.”

The letter contains the following statements:

  • The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe gives undocumented students a constitutional right to free public K-12 education.
  • The district does not ask about a student’s immigration status when the student enrolls. The district can’t discriminate against or exclude students.
  • Federal law doesn’t currently require the district to report undocumented students to immigration authorities.
  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act generally prohibits school districts from sharing with third parties personally identifiable information from student education records. Exceptions exist.
  • ICE agents have the authority to enter school property and question students believed to be undocumented, but ICE’s current approach is to avoid apprehending individuals on school premises.
  • School employees can help students whose parents have been detained by contacting relatives, making sure the student is released from school to a responsible adult and providing other services.
  • If an ICE agent requests to interview a student at school, administrators should ask for credentials, ask about the purpose of the interview, consult with the district legal office, notify the student based on guidance from district lawyers, and notify the parents. The student decides whether or not to answer questions.

Eastmont School District Superintendent Garn Christensen said Thursday by email that he did not send a letter to parents, but fears and rumors are being handled on an individual basis.

We too have confirmed with both our local sheriff as well as Congressman that nothing unusual is going on in our area and that we continue to serve all students,” Christensen said.

Wenatchee Superintendent Brian Flones and other superintendents in the region did not respond to requests for comments before press time.