Denver Public Schools Board of Education members pledged tonight, Feb. 16, to do everything in the district’s legal power to protect students’ constitutional and legal rights, including the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and their constitutional right to access a free public K-12 education regardless of immigration status.
The resolution unanimously approved by board members includes the following language:
” … the Board finds that federal immigration law enforcement activities at our schools, on our transportation routes, on our district property or during our school activities will significantly disrupt the learning environment and will significantly interfere with our students’ constitutional rights …
” … the District shall do everything in its lawful power to protect our students’ confidential information and ensure that our students’ learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions … ”
Board Member Lisa Flores, who introduced the resolution, said she is responding to the fear and uncertainty she hears from students and families in her school communities. The intent, she said, is to provide as much clarity as possible to ease that fear and uncertainty.
“We want to reassure our kids and families that Denver Public Schools is providing safe and welcoming spaces where all students are able to focus on their education because they know we will support their safety and emotional well-being, regardless of religion and immigration status,” she said.
“We are committed to protecting our students’ confidential information and their school, their after-school activities and their bus rides from immigration enforcement.”
Board Member Rachele Espiritu, co-sponsor of the resolution, described its personal impact. She is an immigrant who came to the United States as a toddler and her husband, Alex, is a political refugee from Vietnam.
“I know there’s a lot of silent suffering and anxiety that’s going on in our schools,” she said, “and we need to be proactive about helping our students and our families.”
In addition to the resolution, which will be posted in schools in 10 languages, the district is sharing an Immigration Rights FAQ or frequently-asked-questions document. It responds to common questions such as, “What impact does undocumented immigration status have on my child’s education?” The answer: None.
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg thanked board members for “extraordinary courage” in leading on the Safe and Welcoming School District resolution. He also expressed gratitude for the support of City and County of Denver leaders as well as community partners such as Padres y Jovenes Unidos and Together Colorado.
“We are here today to emphasize our commitment to protecting our students’ constitutional and legal rights,” he said at an afternoon press conference announcing the resolution.
“It’s very important that our students and our families know that our students will be safe. Because when our students know they are safe and they are confident in their safety, they will be more successful as students and their success as students is so vital to our shared success as a community.”
During tonight’s board meeting, members of the Student Board of Education joined board members to show their support for the resolution.
Guadalupe “Lupe” Tarango, a senior at North High School and a member of the student board’s executive team, said she is one of many students in DPS who come from immigrant families. She said family members, despite living in America for most of their lives, have been deemed “un-American” because of their immigration status, adding, “I have been cautious to lock the doors and learn my rights.”
“It is difficult to focus on our college and career endeavors if we are uncertain about the near future, including the safety of our friends and family,” she said. “For most of us, school is our second home .. School is a place where we find our potential and learn to believe in ourselves.”
The Student Board of Education stands in unity with the school board, Lupe said, thanking board members for their leadership.
“As students, we will continue our fight for educational and social justice, and we will not be denied our right to a public education – an education free from unreasonable violations that disrupt our lives.”