PPS board aims to protect undocumented students

The resolution prevents unannounced visits from immigration officers

The Portland Public School Board of Education on July 20, 2016. (KOIN)
The Portland Public School Board of Education on July 20, 2016. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Public Schools Board unanimously passed a resolution that will protect undocumented students.

The resolution requires any Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to notify the PPS superintendent and general counsel before entering any school. The prior notification would allow the district to provide emotional support and safety for the students and staff.

“In the wake of the Presidential election and the heated rhetoric surrounding it, there has been a great deal of worry and concern about family stability and safety throughout our community,” said PPS Board Director Julie Esparza Brown in a press release.  “We are taking this action today to send a message to all PPS families that regardless of their background or status, this District will do everything it can to protect all kids and their families in our schools.”

The resolution also includes a vetting process for any ICE officers who want to go on district property.

In the interest of protecting students and ensuring their education, staff will also not be allowed to ask about a student’s immigration status.

“Schools are a place to learn, are a place of knowledge, a place where kids are safe,” said Latino Network Policy Manager Octaviano Merecias.

District officials say they’ve never had to deal with immigration raids and there’s no real reason to think it will happen, but with some of the things President-Elect Donald Trump promised during his campaign, they aren’t taking any chances.

“It’s reinforcing the policies and what the law says right now and ensuring that we will do everything to protect that sanctity of our schools,” said school board member Julie Esparza.

The district has also emphasized its zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and hate speech after the election. With a student population that is almost half people of color, Interim Superintendent Bob McKean said unkind behavior will be dealt with swiftly.

The board also wants to create a training plan for staff to handle situations with immigration officers in the next 90 days.

While the school board does not expect raids, the resolution is symbolic of their promise to protect children and their education.

“We have in this country a fundamental core value of educating all kids and it’s beautiful,” parent Raahi Reddy said.