In light of the Trump Administration’s announcement to suspend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA, school board members are encouraged to remember that despite changes to federal policy, school districts’ and board members’ responsibility to serve all students remains unchanged.
“The President’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a disheartening development with serious implications for more than 200,000 Californians, most of them children and young adults,” said CSBA President Susan Henry in a press release. “As school board members and county office of education trustees, this presents us with a special challenge – emphasizing and enforcing California’s commitment to educating all students.”
The recent decision regarding DACA is bound to ignite questions and concern among school communities; trustees can help alleviate these fears by sharing resources and reminding their communities of the other protections in place for undocumented children and family members. One of the most important messages to convey is that all students, regardless of immigration status, are welcome at California public schools.
In the landmark Plyler v. Doe (457 U.S. 202 (1982)) decision, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts must not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin, and that students cannot be prohibited from enrolling in schools on the basis of their immigration status or their parents’ statuses.
A student’s right to a basic public education is protected by federal law, and public schools cannot ask for a student’s immigration status or deny enrollment due to lack of documentation, such as social security numbers or birth certificates. Some California school districts have reaffirmed this right to an education by passing “safe haven” or “sanctuary” resolutions, which have included motions such as limiting access to personal data files and declaring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are not welcome on school sites without superintendent approval.
It is estimated that 300,000 of California’s K-12 students are undocumented, with one million more students living with an undocumented parent or guardian. About 220,000 DACA recipients reside in California, the largest concentration within any state.
In a press release distributed shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to the DACA program, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson denounced the president’s decision and reassured California students that state protections remain in place.
“I want to let all those students know that the American Dream remains safe and secure in California,” said Torlakson in the press release. “Our great state will continue supporting these terrific students and their families.”
This June, CSBA partnered with other education-related organizations, institutions and groups to create the California Equity Leadership Alliance (CELA) toolkit. This toolkit consists of classroom tools and strategies, fact sheets, guides and legal resources, sample resolutions and social/emotional support resources. Students, families, educators, administrators, school board members and policymakers will all find useful guidance within the toolkit. CSBA encourages board members to share the toolkit among their communities.
In addition to the CELA toolkit, CSBA has published a variety of resources surrounding student and family immigration status, including legal guidance, sample board resolutions and sample board policies.
DACA / Immigration Status Resources
CSBA Sample Board Policy BP 5111 – Admission. Excerpt only.
CSBA Sample Board Policy BP 5111.1 – District Residency. Excerpt only.