In light of the recent intensive ICE enforcement actions, school administrators should review policies and procedures to ensure that they are prepared if such an action impacts their students. Educators and advocates know that students from immigrant communities are experiencing significant anxiety about enforcement actions, in which children can be separated from parents or other caregivers with no notice. This anxiety impacts a student’s ability to focus at school and can lead to behavior issues. Student absences can rise as children are afraid to leave their parents. Students from immigrant families are also experiencing an increase in bullying and harassment. School staff need additional guidance and tools so that they are ready to support students. Further, schools need to have emergency plans in place in case an immigration enforcement action leaves students without a parent or guardian contact.
The following are some steps that schools can take to support students:
- Reassure students and families that they are important and valued members of the school community. Under the law, all students—regardless of their own or their parents’ immigration status—have the right to attend school and to enjoy a safe school environment. While individual employees may hold different positions about immigration policy, staff must uphold the right of all students to a supportive school environment.
- Make sure that the school has updated emergency contact information for all students. Ideally, a school should have two or three emergency contacts for a student. Several organizations, such as the Latino Network, provide information guides that help parents prepare for the care of their children if the parents are detained or deported. Schools can make such resources available to families.
- Ensure that a plan is in place in case a local immigration enforcement action creates disruption, including unmet students. Have a designated waiting area where students can safely remain until emergency contacts are available. Have access to translators and other supports.
- Provide additional training for staff about the indicators of trauma and how to support students who may be either acting out or withdrawing.
- Review district policies regarding disclosure of student information. Oregon law provides that a public body cannot disclose, for the purposes of federal immigration law enforcement, addresses and contact information, workplace or hours of work, school or school hours, identity or contact information of relatives, or dates and times of meetings with the public entity that are not otherwise public records. If your district does receive a request for information from an immigration enforcement agency, seek legal counsel.
- Do not inquire about the immigration status of students or families, and do not require documentation that would disclose immigration status. Except under limited circumstances, Oregon law prohibits a public body from inquiring about or requesting information concerning a person’s citizenship or immigration status.
- Remind all students and staff about prohibitions against bullying and harassment, and ensure that these policies are enforced consistently and fairly.