July 14th, 2017

Educators respond to immigration policies

Educators in states across the country are seeing that current immigration policy changes are leading to increased chronic absence. As a way to reassure parents and students that school is a safe place for learning, states, districts and schools have posted resources as a way to encourage immigrant students to continue getting to school every day. We’ve collected a few for you.

Resources range from letters sent to school communities and families reaffirming anti-discrimination polices, to toolkits with tips for dealing with anxious students, to videos for parents on how to communicate with their young children on topics that are particularly difficult to tackle, such as bullying. Watch this video, in Spanish with English subtitles, from Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors.

Many districts offer fact sheets with answers to questions such as, ‘What impact does undocumented immigration status have on my child’s education?’ and ‘If I am a parent or guardian and I am worried about being detained while my child is at school, what should I do?’

Educators are careful when clarifying that the resources aren’t meant to express a particular political belief or viewpoint. The Contra Costa County Office of Education‘s Communications Department, for example, noted that the resources on its website are provided as “a helpful tool in communicating the message of compassion and support for students so that they know they are safe and can continue to learn, lead and achieve to the best of their abilities.”

We know that 6.8 million students were chronically absent in the 2013-14 school year. Studies show that missing just 10 percent or more of school – just two days per month – predicts lower levels of numeracy and literacy by third grade, class failure in middle school and higher likelihood of high school dropout. It also indicates that students will have lower levels of persistence in college.

“We are hearing about immigrant families being so fearful that they don’t want to send their kids to school,” says Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. “Being in class every day is critical for academic achievement. We know that all students are more likely to come to school, and parents are more likely to take their kids to school, when they feel their school is a safe place for learning.”

In states such as California, with the most diverse population in the country, as well as Connecticut and New York, state education chiefs released letters committing to protect student privacy, to educate all students regardless of immigration status and offering educators guidance on how to proceed. “My strongest commitment to you, your students and their families is that schools remain safe places to learn,” California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wrote in a letter to local educational agencies (LEAs).

District superintendents sent letters to reassure families and students. And school boards adopted resolutions limiting the ability of immigration agents to enter campuses and the collection of information about immigration status. In one example, Superintendent Nancy Sarra of Consolidated School district of New Britain, Connecticut sent a letter pledging support for New Britain’s immigrant and refugee students and their families.

Here is a sampling of school district resources designed to inform teachers, immigrant families and students about their legal rights:

Other organizations have resources and information about services available to immigrant and refugee families affected by policy changes. Here is a sample:

Check out the websites of local and state educators in your community to find out what resources are available!

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