LOS ANGELES – By unanimous vote, the Los Angeles Unified School Board today passed a resolution to reaffirm that every school site in the district is a “safe zone” for students and their families, and that staff can seek assistance or information if they are faced with fear and anxiety about federal immigration enforcement efforts.
The resolution was backed by California Schools Are Sanctuaries, a broad-based coalition comprised of community-based organizations, public school leaders from traditional and charter schools, civil rights and immigration advocates fighting to ensure the safety and security of immigrant students.
"I am grateful to the L.A. Unified community, the CASAS coalition, and our parents for bringing this resolution forward and working to meet the needs of all our learners, including our immigrant students, families, and staff,” said board member Mónica García. "L.A. Unified will focus on learning as we are charged to do. We will be direct support for our schools and make clear that L.A. Unified will not enter into agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We will move forward focused on our collective success.”
The resolution was co-sponsored by Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez, Board President Steve Zimmer, and Board Member Mónica Ratliff.
“Our students and parents are currently living in fear every day,” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez. “This resolution is our commitment that fear stops at our school doors. When our students and families come to our schools, they are in safe havens.”
“This resolution makes me even prouder to be part of the L.A. Unified family,” added Board President Steve Zimmer. “Today, we send a clear message to the White House: We will not cooperate with any form of immigration enforcement actions of this administration. But, we send a clearer message to our L.A. Unified students and families: Every L.A. Unified school is safe for every child and every family.
“We stand with you and we stand with your dreams. But our clearest message is to our school districts throughout the state and throughout the nation: Here is the roadmap to make every school a safe zone. Here is the design to provide support for your families who are the most at risk. Here is the pathway for all school districts to focus on their education mission, while taking the only moral position for caring education: We will serve every child that comes to our school house door.”
“I am proud to cosponsor the resolution, Reaffirming of L.A. Unified Schools as Safe Zones for Families Threatened by Immigration Enforcement,” said Board Member Mónica Ratliff. “My board office had the opportunity to work with Board District 6 schools to host two ‘Know Your Rights' workshops in March and April. Families throughout the East San Fernando Valley want to know their rights and how to handle the fear that many have felt since November. I thank those principals, local district staff, and others throughout L.A. Unified for being responsive to the needs of students and families in our communities.”
“Today, L.A. Unified’s leadership has courageously sided with the most vulnerable children and families in our city,” said Marcos Aguilar, executive director of Anahuacalmecac - IB World School, a charter public school in El Sereno. “Together, our united front will aim to ensure every school in the state of California remains a sanctuary.”
“This resolution has clear steps our schools can take to bring safety to our children and we commend the board for passing it today,” said Zenzontl Kuauhtzin, director of Parent Engagement for Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) Schools, and a founding member of the coalition. “Now more than ever, we are committed to protecting our immigrant students and families, especially in light of what happened to one of our parents a few months ago.”
The board of education had previously passed a resolution in February 2016, which resulted in the issuance of a guide, which was disseminated to all employees throughout the district, and the creation of Extended Support Sites in every local district, a hotline (1-866-742-2273), and District webpage with immigration resources provided by community partners and legal organizations.
The resolution passed today directs L.A. Unified Superintendent Michelle King to develop a plan within 90 days that will train teachers, administrators and other staff on how to quickly respond to ICE agents. This resolution reaffirms that agents will be unable to enter school campuses unless the request has been cleared by the superintendent and district lawyers. Additionally, immigrant liaisons with expertise in immigrant and undocumented populations will be made available at the District’s extended support sites.
This resolution also coordinates resources to school sites and ensures school personnel have a deep understanding of how they can support students and families. The resolution asks the District to create a referral network, along with the rapid response network that has already been created to assist students and family members if they are detained by immigration agents. The referral network works with legal organizations to represent students facing removal proceedings and provides family members of students, who are in removal proceedings, with legal resources and information.
In February, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a father of four, was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents while dropping off one of his daughters at Academia Avance Charter School in the neighborhood of Highland Park. Avelica-Gonzalez, who is still in federal custody, has lived in the U.S. for more than 25 years.
“I am happy this resolution got passed because I don’t want what happened to me and my family, to happen to any of my friends,” said the daughter, Fatima, 13, who attends Academia Avance. “My birthday is Sunday, and this will be the first time my father will not be there to give me my blessing like he usually does, and give me a hug or cook for me, and celebrate with me and my siblings.”
Syliva Torres-Guillén, director of education equity for the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "Every student in California deserves an equal and equitable educational opportunity. This right applies to students of all races, ethnicities, religions, and immigration status. “Thank you to board members Zimmer, Garcia and Rodriguez for their leadership in the ‘safe zones’ resolutions to keep students and families safe from immigration enforcement in schools."
Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766