Seattle School Board Adopts Resolution Supporting Safe Zones for Students

On February 15, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution affirming the Board’s commitment to protecting the safety of all of the District’s 53,000 students, irrespective of race, religion, gender identity or immigration status.

The Seattle School District refuses to be party to the destructive and inhumane politics of fear fomented by Donald Trump, whose orders call for extreme actions against immigrants, and violate the founding principles and spirit of this nation.

The resolution parallels recent declarations of cities across the nation, including Seattle, Los Angeles,  San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C., reaffirming their status as sanctuary cities.

February also marked  the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 6099, President Franklin Roosevelt’s shameful 1942 decree that resulted in the rounding up and internment of over 110,000 Japanese-American citizens.

Here is my statement from the Feb 1, 2017 Board meeting where the resolution was first discussed, followed by the resolution itself, which passed unanimously at the Feb. 15 Board meeting:
A lot of directors and Superintendent Nyland have been very  eloquent in their reference to the mood of this nation right now in light of the changing of the guard at the national level, and some executive orders that have come down that have really tested the mettle, morals and principles of this nation.
We are a nation of of immigrants. A lot of us have such ties  and have history and some of those ties are quite new. My own family on both sides come from immigrant families; I also have connections to Jewish family.
So what is happening within the nation right now is something that definitely resonates.
And we are aware that this is having an impact within our own District. Our own District is a in a way a microcosm of the nation. We have 149 countries of origin represented in Seattle Public schools and 143 language and dialects are spoken by our students.
We as a District are committed to the education and safety of all of our students. We are going to discuss a resolution that will address this.
This has been done throughout the national already. School Boards in Los Angeles, Oakland Cal, Denver, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and El Paso, Portland, Oregon as well have all passed resolutions saying to the effect that have established safe zones within their schools, they will not allow immigration officials to come and take the children away, and we are planning to create a resolution that says something similar.
I want to remind all of our children and all our families that they have 5th and 14th Amendment rights that protect them, and we will honor those rights.
This also brings to light the fact that education is so important, that history is so important. And it seems that people forget history. And it’s really frightening to see humanity make the same sort of mistakes that it’s made in the past.
And so I’m going to conclude with a poem that I would assume everybody has heard before, but at this point I no longer assume that people have heard things before or remember.
It is by a Protestant pastor  who lived during World War II, his name was Martin Niemoller, who opposed Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime during World War II. It goes like this:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We are here, and we will speak out for all the students of Seattle Public Schools.
Seattle School District #1 Board Resolution Resolution No. 201 6/17-12Resolution Affirming the Provision of Safe, Welcoming, & Inclusive Schools for All Students Without Regard to Race, Religion, National Origin, or Immigration Status
A RESOLUTION of the Board of Directors of Seattle School District No. 1, King County, Seattle, Washington affirming the provision of safe, welcoming, and inclusive schools for all students without regard to race, religion, national origin, or immigration status.
WHEREAS, the School Board recognizes that our nation’s and District’s diversity is our greatest strength and we celebrate 147 countries of birth and 143 languages and dialects spoken among our 53,000 students; and
WHEREAS, the history of our community includes government actions that were enacted due to discriminatory beliefs that caused great harm to the citizens of this nation and violated basic principles of democracy; and
WHEREAS, this history includes shameful actions related to the U.S. settlement of our region that harmed our native tribes and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; and
WHEREAS, reports of student harassment and of higher levels of student anxiety have increased due to the current national political climate; and
WHEREAS, as the history of our state, country, and world teaches us that we cannot allow those in authority to use fear to beget hate and deny the rights and dignities of our citizens, this Board fervently believes we must not succumb to or enable such inclinations;
WHEREAS, the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Plyler v. Doe ensures all children are legally entitled to equal access to a free public education regardless of immigration status;  and
WHEREAS, it is the policy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that, absent a lawful exception, enforcement actions will not occur at nor are focused on schools, which are considered sensitive locations; and
WHEREAS, the presence of ICE or other immigration enforcement officials in schools would cause extreme disruption to the learning and teaching environment for students, staff, and families; and
WHEREAS, it is the policy of and strongly held belief of Seattle Public Schools that all schools must be safe and free from the targeting, discrimination, harassment, or bullying of students based on race, nation of origin, religion, immigration status, or any other factor;
NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools as follows:
1) In accordance with District policy and procedure as well as Superintendent Nyland’s February 2017 letter to families, Seattle School District staff will not ask for, nor record, student or family immigration status; and
2) The District calls on ICE and related federal agencies to continue the policy of not conducting enforcement actions in sensitive locations such as schools; and
3) If an ICE agent or similar official requests information about a student or access to a school building or district property, staff will not have authority to approve the request and will refer the agent/official to the Office of the General Counsel for a formal review of their credentials and written legal authority for such request; and
4) Any such agent/official shall not be allowed access to any records, school, or other District facility except to the extent specifically required by law and only upon the written consent from the General Counsel or Superintendent; and
5) Staff will be trained, and resources made available, to support students and families with concerns regarding immigration status; and
6) The District encourages families to have up-to-date emergency contact information on file with the District, in the event a student’s primary caregiver is detained due to immigration status; and
7) Under this resolution, Seattle Public Schools reaffirms our commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every student without regard to their race, religion, national origin, or immigration status.
ADOPTED this 15th day of February, 2017.
Sue Peters, President
Leslie Harris, Vice-President
Stephan Blanford, Member
Richard Burke, Member
Jill Geary, Member
Betty Patu, Member
Scott Pinkham, Member-at-large
Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent
Secretary, Board of Directors
Seattle School District No. 1
King County, WA

1 thought on “Seattle School Board Adopts Resolution Supporting Safe Zones for Students

  1. Dear President Peters,

    Beautifully written.

    Thank you for your work, time and advocacy. Seattle’s students are lucky to have you on the board.

    Sincerely, Kathleen Smith SPS Parent

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