California's schools chief encourages districts to become 'safe havens'
AAPI students fight for immigration rights.
IN A LETTER, California's top school official released a letter Wednesday (Dec. 21) encouraging all public schools in the state to be declared “safe havens” for students and their parents and to remind families about existing laws that protect students’ records from questions about immigration status.
“Unfortunately, since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious, or ethnic identification are on the rise,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in his letter to county and school district superintendents, charter school administrators, and principals.
“As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, safety is my top priority. And my strongest commitment to you, your students, and their families is that schools remain safe places to learn. California serves more than 6.2 million kindergarten through twelfth grade students with the most diverse population in the nation,” said Torlakson.
Citizenship status is not a condition for enrollment in California K-12 schools. All kids must go to school, regardless of their paperwork. Citizenship is also not a condition for enrollment in California's system of community and four-year colleges. It is estimated that one in ten California students are "unauthorized."
While the majority of California's unauthorized students are from Mexico and Latin America, the next biggest group is from Asia.
The California Department of Education (CDE) will continue to provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with guidelines about existing laws that protect student records, including the 1984 Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires schools to enroll all eligible children regardless of immigration status.
Schools must verify a student’s age and residency, but they have extensive flexibility in what documents are used and do not need to use pertaining to immigration status. No records can be released to law enforcement without a parent’s written permission, a court order, or subpoena. Schools should not collect or maintain any documents pertaining to immigration status, Torlakson said.
Some California schools districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District, have already declared themselves safe havens and let their communities know they will maintain a welcoming environment for all students and parents.