Sanctuary in DC: School Edition

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, Teaching For Change, a social justice nonprofit working with DC schools and teachers, sent a letter to the mayor, deputy mayor for education (DME), council, state board of education, and DC attorney general, asking those DC leaders to enact specific and affirmative policies to ensure our DC public schools will be sanctuaries for all our kids, especially immigrants.

In addition to proposing model sanctuary policies for both DCPS and charter schools, the letter asked the officials to declare our public schools sanctuaries for all; assign personnel to handle concerns with immigration by law enforcement at schools; restrict access to our public schools by immigration officials; limit information collection on students; have a rapid response team to ensure children are safe in the event of an immigration enforcement event at their school; ensure no bullying because of immigration status; allow teachers to discuss such a sanctuary policy with their students; and publicize all such efforts.

The letter asked for a response from the DME, as the mayor’s representative on education, by February 24.

The DME, Jennifer Niles, responded on February 28—in a letter backdated to February 24. She referenced direct communications on the subject from both DCPS and the charter board, without responding about a rapid response team; personnel to handle law enforcement; or restricting access to DC public schools by immigration officials.

And there doesn’t appear to be any other response.

Given that DC kids, right now, at our schools are showing up scared (or not showing up at all because they are scared) suggests that something a bit heftier than a backdated letter from one public official might be warranted.

Chicago did just that for its public school students. And both the American Federation of Teachers and Colorin Colorado have created materials for schools to use that provide straightforward answers for common concerns and questions. (See here and here.)

In the meantime, you can add your voice of support for a strong sanctuary policy for all our DC public schools here.

And you can wonder, as I am, how it can be politically expedient to NOT come out quickly and strongly in all quarters on this subject. (Though hope springs eternal: Maybe the other city officials addressed on that letter will respond sometime before the actual spring?)

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