In a landmark decision, the Evanston Township High School Board of Education became one of the first in the nation, and possibly the first in Illinois, to promise protection for its students from unlawful incursions by immigration officials.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the District 202 Board passed a resolution to protect its undocumented students to the fullest extent possible under the law.
The resolution was authored by board member Jonathan Baum, who noted that his father’s parents brought him to this country when he was seven years old.
Board member Gretchen Livingston noted that Baum’s law firm provided extensive pro bono work, including a great deal of research into similar resolutions by other school districts in the nation, in crafting the language of the resolution.
The resolution complements a similar ordinance passed by the Evanston City Council last month that declares Evanston to be a “sanctuary city.”
Essentially, the resolution declares that the school will be “a safe haven for students and families threatened by immigration enforcement or discrimination, to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
It would prevent district resources from being used for detecting or assisting in the apprehension of persons whose only violation of law is being undocumented or failing to produce documents authorizing residency in this country.
It would even prevent immigration officials from gaining access to the school without permission of the superintendent.
Board members made it clear, however, that the resolution would not authorize the school to do anything that was unlawful or that violated a court order.
When the unanimous vote in favor of the resolution was taken, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon declared that “we will stand tall. We will take every measure that we can possibly and legally take to protect every student and their families in this school.”
Here is the text of the resolution that was passed, with subsequent revision, as verified by Board Secretary Lisa De La Fuente::
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has declared that no public school district may deny any child access to a free public education on the basis of that child’s immigration status; and
WHEREAS, District 202 enthusiastically embraces its responsibility to welcome and educate all students regardless of their immigration status, celebrates their contribution to our diverse learning community, and will not be impeded or intimidated from exercising our responsibility; and
WHEREAS, numerous students whose education, safety, emotional well-being, and family relationships are at risk because of their immigration status are, and will in the future be, enrolled in District 202; and
WHEREAS, District 202 is committed to ensuring that Evanston Township High School is a safe and welcoming place for all its students and their families; and
WHEREAS, federal immigration law enforcement activities, on or around District property and transportation routes, whether by surveillance, interview, demand for information, arrest, detention, or any other means, have the potential to harmfully disrupt the learning environment to which all students, regardless of immigration status, are entitled; and
WHEREAS, no federal or state law obligates a public school district to devote any resources, financial or otherwise, to the enforcement of federal immigration laws; and
WHEREAS, educational personnel are often the primary source of support, resources, and information to assist and support students and student learning, which includes their emotional health; and
WHEREAS, District 202 believes that it is in the best interests of the students, staff, families and community of Evanston Township High School that it take action to assure all students and families that disruptions to the educational environment that Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions may create will be opposed by all legal means available.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
1. The Board declares Evanston Township High School to be a safe haven for students and families threatened by immigration enforcement or discrimination, to the fullest extent permitted by law.
2. Unless specifically required by a valid court order, District 202 employees, contractors, volunteers and representatives will not use District resources for the purpose of detecting or assisting in the apprehension of persons whose only violation of law is or may be being an undocumented resident in the United States, or failing to produce documents authorizing residency in the United States.
3. District 202 employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall refrain from inquiring about a student’s or parent’s immigration status.
4. District 202 employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall refrain from requiring any student or parent to produce documentation regarding immigration status.
5. District 202 employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not, unless compelled by a valid court order, or subsequent to receiving a signed release, disclose to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or to any other person or entity any information about a student’s or family’s immigration status.
6. District 202 employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not, unless compelled by a valid court order, or subsequent to receiving a signed release, disclose to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or to any other person or entity any information about any District 202 student that is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
7. No Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or other immigration law enforcement personnel shall be granted access to Evanston Township High School for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws unless
(a) The Superintendent is notified of the intention to enter, with adequate notice so that the Superintendent can take steps to provide for the emotional and physical safety of students and staff, and
(b) Those requesting to enter provide the Superintendent with credentials, the reasons for the requested entry, and written authority, provided by law, for such entry, and
(c) The Superintendent determines, upon consultation, as appropriate, with District legal counsel, that acquiescence to the requested entry is required by law.
8. District 202 shall continue to provide strictly confidential counseling to all students, including those who fear what might happen to them or family members due to immigration status, and will, without inquiring into the particulars of any student’s immigration status, refer each student having such fears to organizations to provide them with accurate information about their rights and responsibilities under immigration law.
9. No District 202 student shall be denied equal access to any services, educational or otherwise, including access to awards or institutional scholarships, on the basis of the student’s immigration status.
10. District 202 shall distribute this Resolution to District students and parents and to all employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives by effective means of communication and translate it into all languages commonly translated by District 202.
11. District 202 shall promptly review its existing policies and procedures and revise them to the extent necessary to comply with this Resolution.