A New Resource For Districts: Protecting Undocumented and Vulnerable Students

School Board Members and administrators across California should take the time to review the recently produced/published guide by the Stanford Law School Policy Lab, Stanford Law School Youth and Education Law Project. The guide was developed in the wake of recent developments regarding the undocumented student population in California schools and the protections that they are entitled to. The report includes recommended policies and procedures that are rooted in best educational practices and should be used as guidance to ensure that all students continue to access high quality public school options and aid in moving policies forward to protect the rights of students across the state.

Recent federal policies that are being adopted have caused considerable anxiety among immigrant communities, specifically practices by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in and around those communities. So much so, that it has become necessary to become proactive and implement immediate policies to address the concerns and alleviate some of the anxiety, which has led to a decrease in school attendance and decreased parent involvement.

This is important because in California, there are at least 750,000 children who live with a parent who is undocumented, including 250,000 children who are themselves undocumented. That translates into roughly 12% of children in California. It should be noted that protecting the rights of these students has long been established. As noted in the report,

“Undocumented students have a clearly established right to education that was recognized by the United States Supreme Court in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe.  In Plyler, the Court explained that denying undocumented students the same “free public education that it offers to other children” would “foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.”

That said, the changing times seems to dictate that there needs to be some immediate policies activated to ensure that protections and rights are not violated by the federal government. The guidance found in this comprehensive study is a valuable resource for policy makers who are charged with protecting the rights of students in their communities.

I suspect though, that many may not be familiar with or aware of the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision that held that “states must provide undocumented schoolchildren the same education they offer citizen children.”  The report provides summary of the case and its implications (located on page 6).

The study identified several areas where policies could be reviewed and revised in support of undocumented students and families. Both student and parent protections are discussed and there are several examples of both policies and protocols that could be implemented relatively quickly.  Here is what you will find in the report:

For Schools and Students:

  • Enrollment Protocols
  • Confidentiality Protocols
  • Privacy Protocols
  • Campus Access Protocols

For Families:

  • Family Preparedness Plans
  • Schools as Resource Centers
  • Protecting Children if a Parent/Caretaker Is Detained
  • Providing Temporary Care
  • Providing Counseling
  • How to Work with Child Welfare Services
  • Meeting the Needs of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)
  • Adopting Safe Haven Declarations

Districts should take the time to use this valuable resource to implement needed policies and practices that will also provide much needed peace of mind to families during this anti-immigrant presidential administration!

What do you think?

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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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