School board passes resolution affirming student protections against immigration enforcement

By Daniel Davidson, Co-Online Editor

A school board resolution passed unanimously yesterday upholding the district’s commitment to protecting students from unwarranted investigation by immigration officials.

The resolution came about following a rally in Watson Park a week ago, which demanded Lawrence be declared a sanctuary city. The rally was in response to a campaign of raids across the United States by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Following reports of ICE presence in Lawrence, the Lawrence Police Department released a statement on June 27th clarifying it does not cooperate with immigration enforcement officials without a proper warrant.

Although the city commission passed a proclamation in 2017 declaring Lawrence a “welcoming city”, no legislation exists to protect residents from police cooperation with ICE.

In education, however, three federal laws are in place that help protect undocumented students and their families. 

The 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe determined schools must provide education regardless of a student’s citizenships status.

In discussing the resolution, board member Shannon Kimball cited the JCAC policy which mandates students may not be taken into custody nor interrogated without a warrant unless in an “emergency situation”, as determined by the principal’s discretion.

The JRB policy, Kimball goes on to describe, states that the release of a student’s records shall only take place if there is genuine educational interest or if there is an appropriate legal ruling requesting them.

The resolution would affirm the district’s commitment to these laws, declaring the necessity of due process of law before student records are seized or a student interrogation takes place. It does not, however, create any new policy.

Because of these pre-existing legal obligations, board member G.R. Gordon-Ross recalled originally questioning the necessity of such a resolution before being convinced of its importance by his daughter.

Board vice president Kelly Jones explains that as a social worker, she witnessed a woman fearing immigration enforcement showing up at their grandchild’s school. For Jones, the resolution is a signal that protecting students’ education is the district’s top priority.

“Schools can go along with policies to ensure education with less fear,” Jones said. “There is unity in having welcoming doors.”