School Board Unanimously Approves Support of Immigrant, Refugee Students

Collage of refugee studentsUPDATE: On Tuesday, February 7 the Des Moines School Board unanimously approved two resolutions in support of immigrant and refugee students. The resolutions set a protocol for responding to Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials, voiced support for DACA, and above all reiterated that all students are welcomed at Des Moines Public Schools.

The press release below, issued on February 6, contains additional information including a link to both resolutions at the bottom.

In the wake of recent federal government action targeting immigrants and refugees, Des Moines Public Schools is reiterating its support for immigrant and refugee students as the School Board will consider resolutions regarding U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

“As our school district made clear last week, when a child in Des Moines shows up at our schools – no matter their place of birth or religion or language or skin color – they should know that they belong here and we stand by them,” said Teree Caldwell-Johnson, chair of the Des Moines School Board. “We are proud to educate students from around the globe, and will do everything we can to make all 33,000 of our students feel welcomed and supported in our schools.”

Approximately 4,000 DMPS students were born outside of the United States, from nearly 100 different nations, including over 250 students from the seven nations included in the executive order signed by President Trump. More than one out of five students at DMPS are English Language Learners.

“Our state, our community and our school district have a long and proud history of embracing people from around the world. That tradition has made this a place that is diverse in our culture and heritage and, as a result, has made us better for it,” added School Board vice chair Cindy Elsbernd. “As a school district we should not only speak out in support of our students, we should make sure our policies and actions are doing everything we can to support them and their families.”

The School Board will consider two resolutions at their meeting on Tuesday night. The first is a “sanctuary” resolution, which would set parameters on the school district responses to inquiries from ICE. The resolution directs that any requests made of DMPS and its schools by ICE officials to access school information or school grounds must be processed through the Superintendent who will consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with the law. Schools shall not permit ICE officials to access students, their families, or district staff and contractors at schools without having first contacted and processed their request and all relevant documentation through the Superintendent. The resolution would also remind DMPS staff that they may not inquire about the immigration or citizenship status of students or their parents or guardians.

“Unfortunately, too many students live in fear of a change in our nation’s immigration enforcement procedures, and are facing everything from discrimination to uncertainty simply because of their ethnicity, immigration status, or citizenship,” noted School Board member Rob Barron. “We must not only let our students know that they are welcomed and valued, but that we will do everything we can to safeguard their legally-protected right to a free public education.”

The second resolution the Board will consider voices support for the nearly 5,500 students in Iowa who have registered under the DACA program, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” and urges Iowa’s congressional delegation to support the BRIDGE Act. This act, which has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House, would grant provisional protected presence status, and imposes restrictions on the sharing of information for the purposes of immigration enforcement. The resolution also asks the Iowa General Assembly to support and respect all students regardless of origin or immigration status.

Both resolutions note that DMPS staff “shall treat all students in a loving, respectful, and equitable manner without regard for race, ethnicity, citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.”

If the resolutions are approved, DMPS would join school districts in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles, Nashville, Albuquerque, Denver, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego and elsewhere around the country in taking action in support of immigrant and refugee students. A 1982 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States declared that all resident children are entitled to education in the public schools and it is illegal to deny a free public education to children who are not legally admitted into the U.S.

Tomorrow night’s School Board meeting begins at 6:00 PM in the multipurpose room at Central Campus.

Click here to read the “sanctuary” resolution and click here to read the DACA resolution.